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Harvard Journal of Law & Technology

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Intellectual property (“IP”) policy in the United States is primarily aimed at stimulating the creative, inventive, and socially enriching behavior of the living. Yet one key aspect of our incentive-based regime is intimately linked to the death of the creative contributor. Specifically, the term of copyright generally lasts for seventy years following the death of the author. Such a feature is not the product of policy choices in place from time immemorial but rather reflects a contemporary decision to link the duration of exclusive rights to some fixed point in time beyond the author’s death. In particular, until the 1976 Copyright Act, copyright protection lasted for a set (albeit lengthy) term of years without regard to the timing of the author’s death.



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