Copyright law used to be fairly simple, when it all began — it only lasted for two years.
The first copyright law was created in the 18th century: the British Statute of Anne 1710. Passed to protect the rights of authors, the statute required them to renew their copyright every two years. If you didn’t renew, your work went into the public domain, and any printer could profit from it.
But since that first statute, it’s only gotten more and more complicated. Trying to research your rights is like going down a never-ending rabbit hole. And asking for advice can get you a dozen different answers, even when you’re talking to professional copyright lawyers.
But one thing is clear when it comes to copyright: It’s only gotten more and more restrictive since that first statute. Instead of only lasting two years, copyright today is still in place for decades after the creator’s death in most countries.