Copyright law was originally designed to give some protection to the original creator of a work. Tom Bell, a law professor at Chapman University in California, created this graph to illustrate how copyright terms in the United States have evolved....
"The first federal copyright legislation, the 1790 Copyright Act,
set the maximum term at 14 years plus a renewal term of 14 years.
The 1831 Copyright Act doubled the initial term
and retained the conditional renewal term,
allowing a total of up to 42 years of protection.
Lawmakers doubled the renewal term in 1909,
letting copyrights run for up to 56 years.
The interim renewal acts of 1962 through 1974
ensured that the copyright in any work
in its second term as of September 19, 1962,
would not expire before Dec. 31, 1976.
The 1976 Copyright Act changed the measure of the default copyright term
to life of the author plus fifty years.
Recent amendments to the Copyright Act expanded the term yet again, letting it run for the life of the author plus seventy years.
All but the first of these statutes extended copyright terms retroactively.
The chart includes data relating to the 1962-74 interim renewal acts and shows the retroactive effect of the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act to reach back to 1923.
Did you know how much government
and industry cared about writers
and musicians and all the other artists?
I had no idea.