How long does copyright last?
In the UK (under EU law) the following periods of copyright ownership apply:
Copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and most artistic works (including photographs) lasts for 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.
For example, the author H.G. Wells died on 13th August 1946. Copyright in his work therefore expires on 31 December 2016.
Duration of copyright for a film is for the period of 70 years after the death of the last to survive of the principal director, author of the screenplay, author of the dialogue, and the composer of any music composed specifically for the film.
The length of term of copyright in a sound recording depends on whether or not it has been published (released) or has been communicated to the public (for example, played on the radio)
- if a recording is not published or communicated to the public, copyright lasts for 50 years from when the recording was made
- if a recording is published within 50 years of when it was made, copyright lasts for 70 years from the year it was first published
- if a recording is not published within 50 years of when it was made, but it is communicated to the public, copyright lasts for 70 years from the year it was first communicated to the public
- if a recording is first communicated to the public within 50 years of when it was made and is then published at a later date (but within 70 years of its first communication to the public), copyright lasts for 70 years from the year it was first published
The typographical arrangement in published editions is protected for 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.
Some of the information here has been adapted from public sector information provided by the Intellectual Property Office and licensed under an Open Government Licence.