Duration of copyright 

The length of copyright in the UK can depend on a number of different factors. These include:

  • the type of work
  • how long ago it was created
  • whether the author/creator is known
  • whether it is published or unpublished

The table below provides some general guidelines. 

Copyright durations
Type of workLength of copyright
Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works

In general, for the life of the author/creator plus 70 years from the year in which they died.

If author/creator unknown: 70 years from the year in which the work was created or made available e.g. performed, exhibited, published.

Sound Recordings

70 years from the year when the recording was published.


70 years from the year of the death of the last surviving contributor of the following:

  • principal director/producer
  • author of the dialogue
  • author of the screenplay
  • composer of the music
Broadcasts 50 years from the date of first broadcast
Typographical layout of published works 25 years from the year in which the edition was first published
Computer generated works (where there is no human author) 50 years from the year it was created
Unpublished works

The duration of copyright in unpublished works is more complex and dependent on a number of factors.

See Unpublished Materials for more information.

Where there are multiple authors copyright duration is normally calculated from the last surviving author.


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