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Copyright Duration

Written by Sam O'Toole on 05 December 2015

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Copyright does not last forever, usually it will last “life plus 70 years”. There are exceptions such as Crown copyright that is afforded a period of 125 years from when the work was made, however, Parliamentary copyright is only afforded  50 years.  After the respective time periods the once restricted acts are no longer restricted, the work is considered in the public domain.

Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, has amended the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 with the help of Lord Callaghan, so that his copyright will not grow up.  Although not strictly a true copyright, Great Ormond Street Hospital has the right to royalty in perpetuity for Peter Pan in the UK. Sir James Barrie donated the copyright to provide funding for the hospital. 

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Colleges of Eton, Winchester and Westminster were once afforded perpetual copyright in relation to certain types of work, under the Copyright Act 1775. This has now been replaced with a 50 year copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

When the Allies banned Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf”, they awarded the rights to the German state of Bavaria. Bavaria has refused to release the copyright, as has been using it to ban re-prints. However, it is due to expire 70 years after the author’s death with this being at the end of the month, the infamous book will shortly be in the public domain. The German Judiciary has affirmed that any republication of the book without annotations is to remain illegal.

The copyright duration is effectively the time that the owner is able to exploit the work, better start licensing that doodle as you only have life plus 70 years! 

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