Question #2: How long does copyright last?


In the UK copyright generally expires 70 years after the death of the creator for written, artistic, musical and film work. However, for broadcasts it is 50 years from when the broadcast is made whilst for sound recordings and performers’ rights in sound recordings the term has been extended to 70 years from publication.

The time period runs from the end of the calendar year in which the author(s) died or from when the broadcast or sound recording was made. When copyright expires, the work enters the public domain, meaning that it can be used and re-used for free by anyone without the need to get permission from the copyright owner. You can find guidance about the public domain here. You can find detailed information about copyright duration on the Copyright Cortex website.

If the creator of the work is unknown then the copyright expires 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or when it was first made available to the public.

See: Sections 12 – 15A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988


Public Domain: Duration

This commentary explains how long copyright lasts and what you need to consider when calculating the copyright term of different types of works.

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.

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This section provides guidance on strategies that creative firms have employed to effectively manage copyright challenges.