Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Center/Program

Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts

Abstract

Calculating the duration of US copyright in audiovisual works can be a daunting task, complicated by issues of transitional law spanning the US Copyright Acts of 1909 and 1976 and the latter’s subsequent amendments. Readers with an inclination for complexity will find their tastes amply satisfied when inquiry turns to the questions of private international law that also come into play when foreign audiovisual works are at issue. Gluttons for punishment will further relish addressing the relationship of the duration of copyright in an audiovisual work to the duration of copyright in the underlying literary work on which the film was based. Finally, in US copyright law, for works published before 1978, duration is closely linked to ownership because copyright in those works was divided into two terms with a reversion right to the authors at the advent of the second term.

This survey will summarize the rules pertaining to duration of copyright in an audiovisual work and then will turn to some questions regarding ownership of rights in an audiovisual work or in the underlying literary work on which the film was based. In an effort to simplify the discussion, I have drawn up a chart showing which periods of protection apply, depending on the date of publication of the film.

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