How long does copyright last?

The duration of copyright depends upon the nature of the work and a number of other factors.

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

In relation to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as a general rule copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

The following are exceptions to this general rule:

Works of unknown authorship

If the work is of unknown authorship, copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made or, if the work was made available to the public during that period, copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first made available to the public. However, if during one of those periods the identity of the author becomes known copyright will expire at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

Work becomes available to the public if it is performed in public, exhibited to the public, shown in public or communicated in some other manner to the public. However, if the work has only become available to the public as a result of an unauthorised act such act will not be taken into account for the purposes of determining the duration of the copyright.

Work created outside of the EEA by non EEA nationals

Where work is created outside of the EEA and the author is not a national of an EEA state, the laws relating to the country in which the work was created will apply as long as such laws do not exceed the periods set out above.

Computer-generated work

Where work is computer-generated copyright expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made.

Joint authorship

In relation to work of joint authorship where the identity of all the authors is known copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last of the authors die.

If the identity of one or more of the authors is known but the identity of one or more of the authors is not known, copyright will expire at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last of the authors whose identity is known dies.

For the purpose of determining when copyright expires in relation to work of unknown authorship being made available to the public the identity of the author becoming known is taken to mean any one of the authors becoming known.

In relation to work of joint authorship the exception relating to non EEA nationals will only apply if all of the joint authors are non EEA nationals.

Crown copyright and Parliamentary copyright

Crown copyright expires 125 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made or if the work was published commercially before the end of the period of 75 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was made, it expires 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was published.

Parliamentary copyright expires 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made.

Sound recordings

As far as sound recordings are concerned as a general rule copyright expires:

  • at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the recording is made; or

  • if during that period the recording is published, 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first published; or

  • if during that period the recording is not published but is made available to the public by being played in public or communicated in some other manner to the pubic, 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first made available to the public.

Unlock this article now!

 

For more information on:

  • Works created by non EEA nationals
  • Films
  • Where the identity of one or more of the above persons is not known
  • Works created outside of the EEA by non EEA nationals
  • Where there is no principal director, author of the screenplay, author of the dialogue or composer of music specially created for and used in the film
  • Broadcasts
  • Works created by non EEA nationals
  • Typographical arrangement of published editions