What happens to an author’s publishing rights when they die? Well it might not be a question you want to think about, but let’s face it: nobody lives forever and when the time comes, we want to know that what we have created will be protected by the same rights – copyrights and publishing rights, as it was when we were still alive.
The answer is very simple : 70 years. Your copyrights will be protected, til 70 years after your death.
This would mean that for instance, in 2043, Tolkien’s books will become public domain and everybody can use his characters, stories etc.
But there are other laws in place as well. For instance, if your book was published under a pseudonym or if your book was ghost written ( so you were paid for it ) your copyright will last anywhere between 95 and 120 years.
One workaround many families of famous authors and musicians use is the one of republishing and the publishing of ” new ” work. If work would be published before the copyright defaults into public domain, you can ad 45 years onto that copyright.