How long does copyright protection last?

The law doesn’t allow for copyright protection to last forever. Eventually, a work loses copyright protection and becomes part of the “public domain.” Works that have fallen into the public domain are freely available for anyone to use.

The public domain exists because a central purpose of copyright law is to encourage people to make creative works, so the law gives a copyright owner certain rights, but only for a limited time.

This balance gives the author an incentive to create, but also gives other people the ability to use the work without permission after the copyright expires. There are many factors that affect when a work becomes part of the public domain, including when and where the work was first published, the type of work and the publisher. For example, the Berne Convention, an international treaty about copyright, states that the copyrights for most types of works must last at least 50 years after the author’s death, but countries are free to set longer copyright terms in their own laws.

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