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Copyright Term Extension Act Brief

PURPOSE: To extend by 20 years the length of protection afforded to works created by both individuals and corporate copyright holders.

FUTURE LIBRARY ROLE: By taking full advantage of the limited but important exemption described below, libraries, archives and nonprofit educational institutions can minimize the practical impact of this unfortunate legislation.


  • Extends the term of copyright from "life +50 years" to "life +70 years" for individual authors and to 95 years from 75 years for corporate "creators";
  • Applies both prospectively and to all works still under copyright on the bill's effective date;
  • Includes an exception permitting libraries, archives and nonprofit educational institutions to treat a copyrighted work in its last (new) 20 years of protection as if it were in the public domain for noncommercial purposes, provided that: 1) a good faith investigation has determined that the work is "not subject to normal commercial exploitation," and 2) such use of the work stops if the copyright owner provides notice to the contrary (even if the work had never before been exploited).