How long does copyright last?

How long does copyright last?
How long does copyright last?

How long does copyright last?

Intellectual property law regulates the period of time during which the protection of a musical or literary work remains in force.

One of the most confusing legal elements is the one that regulates the duration of the copyright of any artistic or intellectual work. This is a very complex matter and one that also presents notable differences between countries.

In Spain there is, to begin with, the distinction between moral and patrimonial rights. Moral rights are inalienable and are inherently part of the person. They cannot be sold and only cease to belong to the author after his death of him, at which time they become the property of his heirs of him. A success can provide very interesting income for decades, both for its author and for its descendants.

The song ‘Born to be alive’ gives “between 800 and 1,500 euros a day” to its author


These moral rights carry the recognition of being the author of that work that cannot be modified in any way. Economic rights, on the other hand, are subject to time limits and can be transferred through the appropriate contract. In Spain, copyright is subject to Royal Decree 1/1996 which approved the new text of the Intellectual Property Law. The duration of these rights, according to the legal text. “They will last the life of the author and seventy more years after his death from him.”

This is the case for everyone, but for practical purposes, the duration is eighty years if we apply it to the works of any author who died before December 7, 1987, the moment in which the previous Intellectual Property law came into force, which harmonized legislation with European provisions. At present, these are the most important characteristics of the aforementioned Spanish law for different works. How Long Does Copyright Last? 

Copyright and publishing rights

The adaptations generate a new period of protection

From the original music and lyrics of a song. The corresponding musical work will be protected seventy years after the death of the author. The same happens with a literary work. If the work has more than one author, the assumption of seventy years is applied after the death of the last of the authors. In the case of authors who died before 1987. The rights expire eighty years after their death. The publisher’s rights, if any, would cease to be valid at the time of death of the last deceased author.

Derivative works such as versions, arrangements or adaptations. Of the arrangements, adaptations, or musicological revisions (derived works) the law is applied in the same way as in the previous section, although they can generate damages, depending on whether there is will. These are new versions of songs. This right has particularities because new copyrights can arise on a work that was already in the public domain. The original work remains in the public domain, but variations created later generate a new period of protection.

performance rights

Protection ends at age 50

Record label rights. Interestingly, the rights end fifty years after the publication of the phonogram.

Rights of various artists. They are for musicians, DJs, and all kinds of sound performers. They also cease to have effect fifty years from the first demonstrable public performance or fixed in sound or audiovisual support.