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1.8 Is the work still in copyright?

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For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (other than photographs), you must first determine if the author is dead or alive:

  • if the author is still alive, the material is still in copyright
  • if the author is dead, the material will be out of copyright if the author died over 70 years ago and may be out of copyright if the author died less than 70 years ago.

For all other works (sound recordings, film and broadcasts), the maker's death does not matter and you must determine when the material was first published:

  • if it was published more than 70 years ago, it is out of copyright
  • if it was published less than 70 years ago it is most likely still in copyright

Just because a work is still in copyright, it does not mean you cannot copy it. Often a Statutory Licence or Voluntary Licence will apply. See 1.11: Statutory and Voluntary Licences for further information

Example 1: Janet wants to make a copy of the lyrics to the pop song "Hey Jude". The song (a musical work) was written in 1972 and the author died in 1981. Before 1 January 2005, the song would be protected by copyright until 2031 (lifetime of author plus 50 years: 1981 + 50). However, since it is still in copyright on 1 January 2005, the period of protection will be extended to 2051 (lifetime of author + 70 years: 1981 + 70).

Example 2: Bill wants to make a copy of the play "The Ghost of the Opera" so that he can produce and direct it in Hollywood. The play was written in 1931 but the author died in 1958. Before 1 January 2005, the play (dramatic work) would be in copyright until 2008 (lifetime of author plus 50 years: 1958 + 50). However, since it is still in copyright on 1 January 2005, the period of protection will be extended to 2028 (lifetime of author + 70 years: 1958 + 70).

Example 3: Dennis wishes to show the film "The Wizard of Oz" on subscription (pay) TV. The film was first released in April 1955. Before 1 January 2005, the film would be in copyright until December 2005 (50 years from end of year film first released: December 1955 + 50). However, since it is still in copyright on 1 January 2005, the period of protection will be extended to 2025 (70 years after calendar year end of first broadcast, exhibition or publication: December 1955 + 70).

Example 4: A map was published in the National Geographic in 1998 and the author is still alive. Mr Harvey wants to copy the map to use in his geography class. Before 1 January 2005, the map is protected by copyright for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years. Since copyright in the map (an artistic work) is still in force on 1 January 2005, the period of protection will be extended to the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.

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