Copyright Information

Years ago I promised myself if I sold a mystery I would join The Authors Guild. Well, I did and I did.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since joining, I’ve received information that has been valuable to me personally; have been made aware of laws and events that can and do affect writers; and have used the free legal help from AG’s team of experts regarding a contract dispute I was having with an agent. (They even contacted the other party with the decision.)

Besides the legal help, AG regularly puts on seminars and posts emails filled with information. The most latest AG email had timely information about copyrights. One bit of information answered a question that recently came up during a critique session. The question was: When did the copyright for a book/poem/film/song expire? When would it be in the public domain?


(For the full article, click on the site above.)

On January 1, 2020, copyright on the thousands of works created in 1924 expired, and these works began their new life in the public domain. This year’s class of public domain works includes literary classics such as E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, works by Katherine Mansfield and Agatha Christie, two Buster Keaton films, and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The 1976 Copyright Act, effective as of 1978, gave pre-1978 works still in copyright as of 1978, a term of 28 years plus a renewal term of 47 years, which was later amended to 67 years. This meant that all works from 1923 on were potentially still in copyright – until 2018 when the 95 year terms started to expire. Those terms are finally coming to an end; starting in 2018, each year a new year of pre-1978 works will enter the public domain. Now, any creative work first published before 1925 is definitely in the public domain – free for anyone to use.*

*Note that, in addition, works published from 1925-1964 are in the public domain unless they were renewed with the U.S. Copyright Office, which can be confirmed through a search of the Copyright Office’s registration records, and works published without formal copyright notice before 1989 also are public domain.

In addition to the information about works entering the public domain, that same AG bulletin had information about fees for copyrighting ones work.

Again, for the full article, click on the site above.

As of February 19, 2020

  • The fee for a single author to register copyright in a single work (not written as a work-for-hire) was $35 for an application submitted electronically; it has now been raised to $45.
  • All other copyright registration applications for single works were $55, if filed electronically; that fee has now been raised to $65.

Some authors may be interested in the following fees:

  • The fee to register a group of contributions by a single author to periodicals in a single year stays the same, at $85.
  • The fee to register a group of unpublished works was $55; it has now been raised to $85.
  • The fee to record a notice of termination of rights or a notice of intention to enforce a restored copyright was $105; it has now been raised to $125.

The fee to designate an agent to receive notices of claimed copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act stays the same at $6.  You should have such a designated agent if you allow other people to post on your website, or else you run the risk of being held liable if they post infringing material. If you have such an agent, please remember to update this designation annually.

I hope this information is helpful. My suggestion is, if you can afford the annual cost, join the Authors Guild.

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10 Responses to Copyright Information

  1. Hi Maris,

    Many years ago I joined the organization but then let my membership lapse. I agree, the information can be valuable.

  2. Important info!
    THANKS for sharing
    Good luck and God’s blessings

  3. Paula says:

    I saw the article on WP about releases to public domain and was sort of sad. The rates quoted for submitting works for copyright protection seem fair to me. In the late 70s-early 80s, I got copyright for a poem. It cost me $10 and was a big deal for me then, but I realize now it was worth it.

    • Maris Soule says:

      It’s worth it, but still sad that the price has gone up. Publishers used to pay to have the books they published copyrighted. Like everything else, most publishers now put that cost on the author’s shoulders.

  4. Thanks so much for this information, Maris. What are the qualifications necessary to join the Authors Guild? All the best, Annette

  5. This is great information, Maris. Thanks for sharing it.