How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

The term of protection or duration of copyright varies depending on the type of copyright work and when the work was created. The provisions which govern term are very complicated. The general principles are set out below.

Literary, dramatic musical and artistic works

The term of protection in the UK for an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years from the end of the year in which they die. In the case of joint authorship (see Copyright Ownership) the term of copyright protection in such a work is calculated with reference to the date of the death of the last surviving author.


Copyright in a film runs out 70 years after the end of the year in which the death occurs of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, or the composer of any music specially created for the film.


Copyright in a broadcast expires 50 years from the end of the year of the making of the broadcast.

Sound Recordings

Copyright in a sound recording lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or, if published in this time, 50 years from the end of the year of publication. If the recording is not published during that 50 year period, but it is played in public or communicated to the public during that period, then copyright will last for 50 years from when this happens.

Typographical Arrangements

Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a published edition expires 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

Unpublished Works

If, by the time the copyright expires, a work has not been published, a subsequent publisher of the work receives a “publication right” equivalent to copyright. This allows the communication to the public e.g. making the work available by means of an electronic retrieval system or broadcasting the work or including it in a cable programme service. The publication right lasts for 25 years after the first publication of the work.

Moral Rights

The moral rights of paternity and integrity last as long as copyright in the work lasts. The moral right to object to false attribution lasts for twenty years after the death of the author.

This article is subject to Crown Copyright

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