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Spotlight on major copyright law change: a look at the key details

Individuals interested in liberally adapting or otherwise using copyrighted material that first gained legal protection in 1922 were first able to do so without fear of penalty a generation ago, back in 1998.

Conversely, those seeking public domain protections for a copyrighted work from a single year later had to bide their time for a considerable period thereafter. Access in 1999 – a seemingly logical outcome – was simply not in the cards.

In fact, the U.S. Congress made a major foray into copyright law in 1998, with legislators that year tacking on an additional 20 years of protection for copyright holders of creations spanning literature, film, music and other platforms.

Thus, the 2022 copyrighted material that went into the public domain in 1998 (after a 56-year period of protection) was followed by 2023 works that were additionally safeguarded for two decades longer.

That is, until this past Monday.

What happened back in 1998 was essentially a clamor emanating from certain powerful quarters (e.g., the Walt Disney Company). Copyright holders of important – that is, lucrative – works argued that a further period of protection was necessary for creators of intellectual property to ensure their meaningful profit and continued desire to promote artistic expression for the public good.

That argument sailed, right into enactment as new federal law.

Without the extension, legions of classic films and novels of yesteryear would have entered the public domain decades ago. Now they will start doing so in piecemeal fashion, year by year.

Intellectual property rights are of course crucially important to individuals who author new and important works driven by dynamic spark and impulse. They can turn to seasoned attorneys at a proven entertainment law firm to secure meaningful protections for their creations.

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