How long does copyright last in unpublished works such as manuscripts?
In general, unpublished manuscripts will be protected by copyright until at least the end of the year 2039. It can be quite difficult to work out the exact term of protection, but the following explanation gives a little more detail about what might affect the term of protection.
For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works created on or after 1 January 1996, the term of protection does not depend on whether or not the work is published so the term of protection is as set out generally for these works. Thus, even if the work is only published for the first time in the last year of copyright protection, copyright will still expire at the end of that year. However, publication right may apply to works that are published for the first time after copyright has expired.
For older unpublished works, the situation is more complicated, but for any literary, dramatic or musical work that was still unpublished at 1 August 1989, or which was created from 1 August 1989 to 31 December 2005, the term of protection lasts at least until the end of 2039.
For artistic works, other than photographs and engravings and works of unknown authorship, that were created before 1 January 1996, the term of protection even for unpublished works is life of the author plus 50 years after his death, but that term of protection may have been extended or revived from 1 January 1996. For engravings and anonymous or pseudonymous artistic works of all types, other than photographs, which were created before 1 January 1996 and, if created before 1 August 1989, were unpublished at that date, the term of protection lasts at least until the end of 2039. The duration of copyright in photographs is dependent upon when the photograph was taken.