Copyright Bite #1.1

Copyright does not last forever. In the UK, and across Europe, copyright in books, plays, music, works of art and films comes to an end 70 years after the author’s death. After that, work that was once protected by copyright enters the public domain.
Copyright Bites. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Strand Magazine (cover), vol. 65, no. 321, September 1917For example, the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died on 7 July 1930, more than 85 years ago. All of Conan Doyle’s published work is now in the public domain, including his stories from The Strand Magazine featuring perhaps the most famous literary detective the world has ever known. This means his work can be re-used by anyone for free, without having to ask for permission. If you wanted to publish and sell Conan Doyle’s stories, you are free to do so. If you want to make use of his stories in the creation of new, derivative works – such as a film, a graphic novel or a computer game – you are free to do that too. The copyright has expired. The work is in the public domain.
 Think of it this way: copyright is like a time capsule. It keeps an author’s work safe and secure for a defined and finite period of time, after which the work becomes free to the world.

More from Bite #1

Copyright Bite #1.2

Knowing that copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years is a useful rule of thumb, although this rule does not apply to all types of copyright work.

Copyright Bite #1.3

The man in pink is, of course, the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. Even before Holmes was released from the time capsule, you probably knew it was him.

Copyright Bite #1.4

Having become tired of his famous creation, Conan Doyle decided to kill him off in 1893.

Copyright Bite #1.5

Once an author’s body of work enters the public domain it is free to be re-used by anyone.

Copyright Bite #1.6

When most people discuss copyright in a work coming to an end, they talk about the work falling into the public domain. The metaphor of ‘the fall’ carries a number of – mostly negative – connotations.

More Copyright Bites

Copyright Bite #1

Copyright Bite #1 considers how long copyright lasts and what it means to say that a work is protected by copyright or in the public domain.

Copyright Bite #2

Copyright Bite #2 explores how copyright protects only the expression of ideas and not ideas themselves.

Copyright Bite #3

Copyright Bite #3 considers how you can lawfully make use of, or borrow from, works that are still in copyright, but without having to ask for permission or make payment to the copyright owner.