How Often Do Copyrights Need To Be Renewed?

According to the copyright law of 1909, works copyrighted in the United States before January 1, 1978 were subject to a renewal system where the original term of copyright was divided into two new, consecutive terms. At that point, there were strict requirements regarding time for which renewal registration was required as a condition of securing the second term and allowing the copyright to reach its maximum length.

However, when the current copyright law was enacted on January 1, 1978, new changes came into effect. According to the new law, the original terms applied only to works that were copyrighted before 1978 and still in their first term. This new law provided those works with 28 years of protection and the possibility to renew for a second term of 47 years following the expiration of the first term.

In 1992, that legislation was amended, which secured the second term for works copyrighted between January 1, 1964 and December 31, 1977. Works that were not properly renewed before January 1, 1964 expired at the end of 28 years and could not be restored.

Copyright Renewal After the 1992 and 1998 Amendments

The following information has been pulled straight from copyright.gov and summarized. To see the original document in its entirety — click here.

Works that were copyrighted between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977 are directly affected by P.L.102-307, which automatically secured their second term and provided an option for renewal registration. Those same works are also directly impacted by P.L.105-298, which added an additional 20 years to the second term of copyright. The term of copyright in works copyrighted between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977 is currently 95 years.

At this time, there is no longer a requirement to register a renewal in order to extend the original 28-year copyright term to the full term of 95 years. Despite the fact that the renewal term is automatically secured, the Copyright Office does not issue a renewal certificate for these works unless you send a renewal application and fee to the Copyright Office.

The advantages from submitting a renewal registration during the 28th year of the original term of copyright are as follows:

  1. The renewal copyright is granted in the name of the renewal claimant on the effective date of the renewal registration.
  2. The Copyright Office issues a renewal certificate, which constitutes evidence as to the validity of the copyright during the renewed and extended term in combination with the facts stated in the certificate.
  3. The right to use the derivative work during the extended term can be affected.

How to Register a Renewal Claim

To register a renewal claim, you must submit an application that is filed on Form RE, which is supplied by the Copyright Office on request. You can also get Form RE from their website — www.copyright.gov.

All you have to do is send Form RE and the correct filing fee together in one envelope or package. If you are submitting several applications at once, you should include the total payment amount for everything.

All payments are required to be in the form of check, money order, or bank draft payable to Registrar of Copyrights. The fee for processing a renewal claim is non-refundable, whether or not your renewal registration application is approved.

Who is Eligible to Claim Renewal

The law clearly specifies who can and can’t claim a copyright renewal.

The following people are eligible to claim copyright renewal in all types of works (except for the works listed in the following section):

  1. If the author is living, they can claim copyright renewal.
  2. If the author is deceased, the widow or widower of the author; the child or children of the author; or both, are eligible to claim claim copyright renewal.
  3. If there is no surviving widow, widower, or child, and the author has left a will, the author’s executors may claim copyright renewal.
  4. If there is no surviving widow, widower, or child, and the author left no will or the will has been discharged, the closest relative to the author may claim copyright renewal.

The following four types of works are the only cases where the copyright proprietor (owner) may claim renewal:

  1. Posthumous work: a work that has been published after the author has passed away and  by which no copyright assignment or other contract for exploitation has occurred during the deceased author’s lifetime.
  2. Periodical, cyclopedic, or other composite work.
  3. Work copyrighted by a corporate body functioning as an assignee or licensee of the individual author. However, this claim is rarely approved.
  4. Work copyrighted by an employer by which the work was originally created for the employer and the author was compensated for the work (made for hire).

Kyle Stout is a freelance writer based out of Dallas, TX. This article was prepared on behalf of Vethan Law Firm P.C.

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