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Duration of Copyright

As a general rule, copyright protection lasts for the creator's lifetime and for a further 70 years after the creator's death. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

The main categories that copyright protected works fall into are:
Literary, Dramatic, Musical and Artistic. (For more information about these categories go to our What is Copyright page.)

The duration of copyright protection for all works in these categories is the creator's lifetime plus 70 years. The 70 years commence from the end of the year in which the death occurred. In the case of a film the 70 years start from the death of the last remaining director, author of screenplay and dialogue, or composer of any original music for the film score.

When a work has joint ownership of copyright, the 70 years protection begins at the end of the year when the last surviving collaborator dies.


  • Sound recordings -
    In 2012, the duration for copyright protection of a sound recording is 50 years. However, in September 2011 the European Union passed a directive approving the extension of sound recording's copyright protection to 70 years. This directive must be implemented by 1st November, 2013.
  • Broadcasts -
    Copyright protection for a broadcast lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the broadcast was made.
  • Typographical Arrangements -
    Copyright protection for a typographical arrangement lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which it was first published.

The information on this page is not a complete guide but should be regarded as a basic overview to enhance your understanding of copyright. This is not legal advice and should not be considered as such. Some information may not be applicable in certain situations.

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