Since the very emergence of copyright protection, it has been settled that the term of protection must correspond with the author’s life. Later, the term of protection was extended beyond the author’s life. In the early 20th century, the term lasted merely 10 years after the author’s death.
The Bulgarian law on copyright, in force since 19 November 1951, in its version prior to the amendment of 1956, provided that copyright shall be protected for the life of the author, where after the author’s death, the said right shall pass to his heirs and shall be protected for the life of the spouse, or until the coming of age of the children. Subsequently, the circle of heirs was expanded by including the parents in it, and since the revision of 1993, inheriting has been guided by the general law.
Article 17 of CNRA guides the exercise of certain moral rights of the author and his heirs. The law explicitly states that the right of the author to alter his work and the right to halt his work due to a change of his beliefs may not be exercised by his heirs.
According to Article 32 of CNRA “Upon the death of the author the copyright shall pass to his heirs by will or by law according to the Inheritance law”. The circle of heirs must be determined in accordance with the inheritance law in place at the time of death of the author. Copyright shall be inherited until expiration of the term of protection. Heirs may exercise not only property, but also moral rights. Two of the moral rights are an exception: the right to alter the work and the right to halt the work’s use by third persons, due to a change in the author’s beliefs. Upon the death of the author, these two rights shall be extinguished and they may not be exercised by the heirs.
In case the author does not have heirs, or any such heirs die prior to the expiration of the term of protection, copyright shall pass to the state which shall exercise it until expiration of the term through the Ministry of Culture. In case the deceased author or his heir was a member of an organisation for collective management of rights, that organisation shall, at its own expense, exercise these rights until their expiration75.