Copyright on things usually expires after so many years, but as posted by Game Politics, anything before 1976 could have its copyright doubled from 28 years to 56, but usually only if the creator is still alive.
US Congress passed a law that meant it would automatically renew for another 28 years, but in 1998, it was extended again to up to an extra 95 after the life of the creator. What that means is, once you have created something and copyrighted it, it remains copyrighted until you die PLUS 70 years (95 for corporations), so games like Grand Theft Auto V won’t be released in to Public Domain until possibly at least 2150.
Ever year on January 1st, certain works reach the end of their copyright and are released into Public Domain, but unfortunately, these games may not:
- Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh
- Bases Loaded
- Beyond Zork
- Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
- Dragon Quest 2
- Final Fantasy
- The Goonies 2
- Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
- Mario Bros. 2
- Mega Man
- Metal Gear
- Phantasy Star
- Wizardry 4
- Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
Because of the listed games were a big hit for their publishers, there’s a high chance of them having had the extended copyright and so won’t be released until around 2082. That said, a lot has entered Public Domain in Canada and Europe including works of Hitler and Anne Frank.
Source: Game Politics.