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Expiring Copyrights

Hudson Law Firm Feb. 27, 2023

winnieIn the United States, copyright law grants exclusive rights to authors for a limited time, generally expiring 70 years after the author's death, or 95 years after publication. Works published before January 1, 1928, are in the public domain. After a copyright expires, the work enters the public domain, meaning that anyone can copy, distribute, display, perform, and create derivative works based on the original work without permission or payment to the copyright holder. This includes the right to create derivative works such as fan fiction, translations, and adaptations of the work.

It also includes the right to use portions of the work, such as quotes, in other works. However, it is important to note that while the original work may be in the public domain, different versions may be protected by copyright. Therefore, it is important to check the copyright status of any derivative works before using them

For example:

  • Winnie-the Pooh - The copyright for A.A. Milne's original Winnie-the Pooh stories expired on January 1, 2022, and entered the public domain. However, Disney's later-created version of Pooh may be protected by copyright.

  • Steamboat Willie - Disney's Steamboat Willie copyright is now due to expire this year and (finally) enter the public domain in 2024, but later incarnations of Mickey Mouse may remain protected

  • Batman & Superman - The copyrights to the original stories that involve Superman or Batman will expire in 2033.