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Copyright explained

How long copyright lasts

Copyright starts as soon as the work is created. Once it has expired, the work is in the Public Domain and anyone can use or copy the work.

Duration of copyright varies depending on the type of work.

For the UK, the following copyright terms apply:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work: the author’s lifetime plus 70 years after their death.
  • Crown copyright or Parliamentary Copyright material: 50 years from the end of the year of publication
  • Databases: 15 years from each time the database is updated
  • Sound recordings: 70 years from first publication
  • Films: 70 years from the death of the director, screenwriter or composer (whoever is the last to survive)
  • Broadcasts: 50 years from when the broadcast was first made
  • Layout of published editions: 25 years from first publication
  • Unpublished and anonymous material: pre-1989 material is in copyright until 2039; post-1989 material in copyright until 70 years after the year of creation.

Where there are joint authors, the copyright term is calculated based on the last surviving author.