Under the 1909 Copyright Act, works copyrighted in the United States before January 1, 1978, were subject to a renewal system in which the term of copyright was divided into two consecutive terms. Copyright renewal registration, within strict time limits, was required as a condition of securing the second term and extending the copyright to its maximum length.
On January 1, 1978, the current copyright law came into effect in the United States. This law retained the renewal system for works that were copyrighted before 1978 and were still in their first terms on January 1, 1978. For these works the statute provides for a first term of copyright protection lasting for 28 years, with the possibility for a second term of 47 years. If a copyright originally secured before January 1, 1964, was not renewed at the proper time, copyright protection expired at the end of the 28th calendar year of the copyright and could not be restored.
The 1992 amending legislation automatically secures this second term for works copyrighted between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977.