How Many Years Does a Copyright Last For?
This article seeks to explain how many years a copyright will last for. It must be noted that there are international laws providing for a minimum term of copyright right protection, but this is a minimum and countries can impose longer terms of protection if they wish. For example, copyright in the UK is regulated by the European Union and the EU in turn adheres to the Bern Convention, amongst others.
This article explains the law surrounding the duration of copyright protection in the UK. There are many different types of works that can be copyrighted and this article will explain each:
Literary, Dramatic, Musical or Artistic Works
For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, the duration of copyright is 70 years from the year in which the last remaining author of the work dies. For example, where an author published a book in 1900, but didn't die until 1950, his work would be protected until 2025.
Sound Recordings and Broadcasts
Sound Recordings and broadcasts have a lesser length of protection in the UK than Literary, Dramatic, Musical or Artistic Works, it is currently set at 50 years from the year in which the work was created. Under this heading, it is irrelevant whether the person is alive or not. This has led to much criticism of the law by famous artists such as Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey and Cliff Richard who, under the current law, will still be alive when their copyright protection ends.
Films are awarded the same protection as literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. Namely, 70 years from the year in which the last principal director, author or composer dies. Therefore a film made in 1960, and the director, author or composer dies in 1980, his work would be in the public domain in the year 2050.
Typographical Arrangement of Published Editions
Here, where the typographical arrangement is copyrighted rather than the literary work, the term of protection for copyright is 25 years from the year in which the work was first published.
The term of protection for broadcasts is the same as sound recordings, it is 50 years from the year in which the broadcast was made. This includes both TV and Radio broadcasts, but may also include other broadcasts, e.g. internet, as long as the broadcast is live.
Crown copyright applies to all works produced by the British government and some commonwealth governments. The duration of protection for a crown copyright is 125 years from the year in which the work was made.
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines parliamentary copyright as: "Where a work is made by or under the direction or control of the House of Commons or the House of Lords..." and parliamentary copyright lasts for 50 years from the year in which the work was made.