How Long Does Copyright Last?

Generally, for published material — literary, dramatic, musical and artistic — work remains in copyright in the U.K., the E.U. and the U.S. until 70 years after the death of the author.

Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works:

  • until 70 years after the death of the author


  • 70 years from the death of whoever is last to survive of director, screenwriter or composer

Typographic copyright in the printed page:

  • for 25 years from publication in that edition, so a recent edition of a long-dead author cannot be freely copied: the publisher has copyright in the typography and layout.

Sound recordings:

  • are protected by copyright for 50 years after they are published or performed (so recordings from before 1954 are in the public domain from 2004)


  • for 70 years after a known photographer’s death, or
  • 70 years after the publication of the work of an unknown photographer


  • as well as the full term of copyright in the material included, there is a 15-year database right: this begins from each time the database is updated

Unpublished Material:

  • ALL unpublished material is currently in copyright
  • pre-1989 material remains in copyright until 2039
  • post-1989 material is copyrighted until 70 years after year of creation

Remember that there may be more than one copyright holder (multiple authors; writer and composer, etc.)

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