It would seem Adobe will kill Flash, but not release its source code under a free license.

So, when will Macromedia Flash’s copyright expire?

  • Why the exclamation point? Oct 25, 2020 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


Adobe Inc is a Delaware incorporated corporation, so we should look at United States copyright law. We can assume that all source code written for Macromedia Flash were works for hire and thus the author to be considered Adobe itself.

Title 17 of the United States Code § 302 (c) states:

In the case of an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication, or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

Supposing Adobe Inc final release of Flash was on 2020, its source code would enter Public Domain on 1st January 2116. (2020 + 95 = 2115, plus the remaining of that year)

  • 3
    And even after the source code is in the public domain, that just means that anybody who happens to have it can legally copy it. But nobody is obliged to do so. If Adobe is still around in 2116, they are perfectly free to keep their copies locked up and not share them with anybody. If none of the people who have copies want to share them, or if they have contracts with Adobe forbidding them from doing so, the general public would never see it. Oct 25, 2020 at 19:49
  • One could argue that the binary was published in 2020, but that the source code was not, as it was not released to the public. By that logic the source code would remain under copyright until 2140. Oct 25, 2020 at 19:51
  • @NateEldredge assuming that the source code could even be read in 95 years time - we can decipher Sumerian from 3000 years ago easier than reading formats from 30 years ago
    – Dale M
    Oct 25, 2020 at 21:42
  • Originally this product was released as "FutureSplash Animator" in May 1996. Macromedia bought FutureWave Software, then Adobe bought Macromedia. Does transfer of Copyright extend it's Lifetime ? If so, then Adobe can be bought by another corp, and the Flash Copyright will be extended again ?
    – Neel
    Oct 26, 2020 at 7:22
  • 2
    @Neel the point is that 2020 product will be different than the 1996 one. The copyright on the 1996 source code would expire 24 years earlier.
    – Ángel
    Oct 27, 2020 at 0:28

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