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Copyright Duration

Written by Emma Wigmore on 21 December 2012

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The duration of copyright largely depends on the type of property you are trying to protect :classic or entrepreneurial. Classical copyrights include original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Entrepreneurial copyrights include films, recordings, published editions and broadcasts. The general duration for classic copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years, which runs from the end of the year of the authors death. This period also applies if it is the employers copyright or if the rights have been assigned.

If the author is unknown, the 70 years is from the year of creation or first publication (whichever is the later) and for computer-generated work the period from creation is 50 years. The duration of copyright used to be 50 years, however this was extended to the current 70 years by The Directive on Copyright Duration.

The length of copyright duration is different for those classic copyrights which are exploited industrially. If this happens, the period is reduced to 25 years, measured from the end of the year in which the articles are first marketed. There are some statutory exceptions to the rule, including sculptures and medals. The government does not feel that industrial designs should have a long copyright, in the same way as registered designs do not, and hence there is a policy basis for the reduced duration of 25 years. Although the duration for classic copyrights is relatively straightforward, that for entrepreneurial copyrights is much more complicated and depends on the right concerned.

Sound recordings have a duration of 50 years from the making or release, films have a duration of 70 years from the end of the life of one of the fundamental creators, broadcasts have a duration of 50 years from the first broadcast and typographical arrangements have a duration of 25 years from the end of the year of publication. Copyright is clearly a long lasting right which is formed as soon as the creativity is made material, and hence it is extremely important for the creative person.

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