Harvard Journal of Law & Technology
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.
Subotnik, Eva E., "Copyright and the Living Dead?: Succession Law and the Postmortem Term" (2015). Faculty Publications. 222.