2102 Copyright Renewal
The Copyright Act of 1909 provided for two consecutive terms of copyright: an original term lasting for twenty-eight years from the date copyright was secured, followed by a renewal term of twenty-eight years. An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts Respecting Copyright, Pub. L. No. 60-349, §§ 23-24, 35 Stat. 1075, 1080 (1909) (“Copyright Act of 1909”).
The original term began on the date of publication or registration (if registered as an unpublished work) and ended on the twenty-eighth anniversary date of publication or registration as an unpublished work. The renewal term began on the day following the twenty-eighth anniversary date and was to end on the fifty-sixth anniversary date of publication or registration as an unpublished work. However, as the earliest works that secured copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909 came to the end of their renewal terms, Congress enacted a series of extension acts to ensure the renewal terms would not expire before the current law took effect on January 1, 1978. These interim extension acts affected works still in their renewal terms whose copyright protection began between September 19, 1906 and December 31, 1918. Without these interim extensions, copyrights commencing during those years would have expired after fifty- six years. See Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code (Circular 92), ch.3, n.7. The final extension came with the Transitional and Supplementary Provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. Pub. L. No. 94-553, app. A, tit. I, § 102, 90 Stat. 2541 (1976).
To extend copyright into the renewal term, two registrations had to be made before the original term expired, one for the original term and the other for the renewal term. Registration for the original term could be made at any time during the original term; renewal registration had to be made during the last year of the original term. This period for renewal registration is referred to as the renewal filing period.
The Copyright Act of 1976 retained the two-term system of the Copyright Act of 1909 for works in their original or renewal term of copyright on January 1, 1978, the effective date of the Copyright Act of 1976. It also retained the requirement that a renewal claim had to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office during the last year of the original term to extend copyright into the renewal term. However, it extended the renewal term from twenty-eight years to forty-seven years for all works still in their original term as of the effective date of the Act, and provided that copyrights in their renewal term before January 1, 1978 would subsist for seventy-five years.1 17 U.S.C. §§ 304 (A), (B) (1976). It also provided that all copyright terms would extend to the end of the calendar year in which they would otherwise expire. Id. § 305. Two subsequent amendments to the Copyright Act of 1976 modified these renewal term provisions:
• The Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-307, 106 Stat. 264, effective June 26, 1992, made renewal registration during the last year of the original term optional for works still in their original term as of that date, that is, works that secured copyright between January 1, 1964 and December 31, 1977, inclusive. Under this amendment, copyright extends into the renewal term automatically, regardless of whether an original or renewal registration was made before the original term expired. It also provides for renewal registration during the entire renewal term. 17 U.S.C. § 304 (A). For more information about this amendment, see Part II.
• The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Pub. L. No. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827, effective October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term by twenty years (from forty-seven years to sixty-seven years) for all works that secured copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909 and were still under copyright protection as of the effective date of the amendment. 17 U.S.C. § 304 (B).