Duration of copyright

Copyright lasts for different periods depending on a number of factors, including the type of material, when it was created, when the creator died and when it was published. Copyright periods can also vary from country to country.

In general, copyright in text, images and music lasts for 70 years after the year of the creator’s death, even if the creator does not own copyright. The period was extended from 50 to 70 years in 2005, but only for content that was still in copyright on 1 January 2005.

When copyright in a work has expired, it is often referred to as being “in the public domain” or “out of copyright.”

Content type Copyright expired in Australia if:
Text

Print music

Published before 1955 AND

  • creator died before 1955 OR
  • published anonymously or under pseudonym, and author cannot be identified
Image
  • photograph taken before 1955
  • engraving* published before 1955 AND artist died before 1955
  • other image: artist died before 1955
Government works**
  • text, print music, photo, engraving published 50+ years before current year
  • other image made 50+ years before current year

* such as etching, lithograph, woodblock, print

** Government (Commonwealth, State, Territory) owns copyright OR work made for, or first published by, government

Note:

  • the chart above is not comprehensive (e.g. it does not cover audiovisual content)
  • copyright in an unpublished work can last indefinitely
  • one item can contain many separate works: e.g. a book can contain a number of text works, and a number of artworks, all with different creators and different periods of copyright protection
  • a translation of work is protected by copyright separately from the original: a translation may be protected by copyright even if the original work is out of copyright
  • similarly, an arrangement of a musical work can be protected by copyright separately from the original: an arrangement may be protected by copyright even if the original work is out of copyright
  • the artists’ resale royalty right lasts for 70 years after the year of the artist’s death: an artwork can be out of copyright, but eligible for resale royalties.

This information is for guidance only. It is not legal advice.

MORE FROM AUSTRALIAN COPYRIGHT COUNCIL

The Australian Copyright Council publishes information sheets and detailed guides, offers a legal advice service and runs an annual training program.

29 September 2016

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