As granted by copyright law, the economic author’s rights do not last forever; the copyright law itself sets out the term (or duration) of the rights. The international standard for the term of author’s rights, established by the Berne Convention, is the life of the author plus fifty years after their death. However, in many countries, such as the United States and in those of the European Union, the protection is extended for the life of a work's author plus an additional seventy years. Mexico provides the longest term: the life of the author plus 100 years.

Once the term expires, the author’s rights end and the work enter the public domain where it can be freely used by anyone.

The Rationale for Author’s Rights

One of the essential ways in which any society acknowledges the fundamental importance of creativity is through the protection that author’s rights provide. The legal protection offered by copyright law grants due recognition of their work to authors and allows them to obtain fair economic rewards for their creative activities.

Quoting the 1956 CISAC Charter:

The authors of literary, musical, artistic and scientific works play a spiritual and intellectual role in society which is to the profound and lasting benefit of humanity and a decisive factor in shaping the course of civilisation.

The protection afforded by law should provide creators with the guarantee that their works can be distributed without fear of unauthorised use. Unfortunately, as the widespread illegal copying of music and audiovisual works on the Internet demonstrates, this legal theory is not always respected.

Because of this, authors and their representatives find themselves continuously striving to defend and promote the application of authors’ rights.