Leeds University Library

Using photographs

To find out whether a photograph is still in copyright, consider:

  • Whether it was published, and if so, when
  • Who took the photograph, and whether they are still alive

Published material

Generally, when deciding whether a photograph is still in copyright, you can assume:

  • No, if it was taken by a known photographer who died before 1 January 70 years ago, or taken by an unknown photographer and published before 1 January 70 years ago
  • Yes, in all other cases (ignoring Crown copyright and international organisations)

There are exceptions, due to copyright legislation in place before 1989:

  • Known photographer; photograph was taken before 1 June 1957
    - copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author
  • Known photographer; photograph was taken on or after 1 June 1957 and before 1 August 1989; photographer died more than 20 years before publication
    - copyright expires 50 years after the end of the year of first publication
  • Known photographer; photograph was taken on or after 1 June 1957 and before 1 August 1989; photographer died less than 20 years before publication
    - copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year of the author's death
  • Crown copyright applies
    - protection is for a maximum of 125 calendar years unless published commercially, in which case a photograph is protected for only 50 years from the end of the year in which it was created

Unpublished material

The rules are more complicated:

  • Copyright expires 70 years after the creation of any unpublished photograph taken before 1 June 1957
  • Copyright expires on 31 December 2039 for any unpublished photograph taken on or after 1 June 1957 and before 1 January 1969, if the author died before 1 January 1969
  • Copyright expires on 31 December 2039 for any unpublished photograph taken on or after 1 January 1969
  • Copyright expires 70 years after the creation of any unpublished photograph taken after 1 January 1969

Therefore all unpublished photographs taken since 1 June 1957 are currently protected by copyright.