1. Works that were created but had not been published prior to 1978 were protected by state common law copyright, which lasted indefinitely.
2. The 1976 Copyright Act abolished common law copyright for works fixed in a tangible medium.
3. Section 303 of the Copyright Act provides t hat works that were protected by common law copyright on the effective day of the 1976 Act (i.e. January 1, 1978) became subject to the term of protection specified by the 1976 Act (i.e. life plus 70 years) or until December 31, 2002 whichever expires later.
4. The second potential expiration date (i.e. 12/31/02) protects works created by authors who have been deceased for more than 70 years by 1978 (which otherwise would have not received any federal copyright protection).
5. Additionally, if such works are published before 12/31/02, the copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047, thereby encouraging publication.