Copyright terms and the Public Domain for US authors
When you write something original, you own the copyright to the work as soon as it’s fixed in a permanent format (book, printed manuscript, web page, Word file, etc.)
[Oh, and by “original,” I mean “created by you.” But hopefully it’s original in that other way too!]
Your copyright gives you certain rights in determining when and how your text is “copied” and exploited (published, quoted, etc.).
Are you curious how long you and your estate will be able to own the copyright for one of your books? How about the expiration date of the copyright to another writer’s work published abroad before 1978? How about the copyright to a work created under a pseudonym before 1893? OK — maybe you weren’t wondering about those last two things.
But Cornell University has put together a document to answer all your copyright questions, and many more you never even thought to ask. Check out “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.”
Check it out. It’s fun.