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Written, Theatrical, Musical, Artistic and Film

The term of protection or duration of copyright varies depending on the type of copyright work. The term of protection in the UK for an original written (literary), theatrical (dramatic) musical or artistic work lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years from the end of the year in which he/she died.

Similarly, copyright in a film runs out 70 years after the end of the year in which the death occurs of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, or the composer of any music specially created for the film.

Both software (computer programs) and databases are able to be protected as literary works.

Where two or more people have created a single work protected by copyright and where the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other(s), those people are generally joint authors and joint first owners. The term of copyright protection in such a work is calculated with reference to the date of the death of the last surviving author. The term of protection for the music and lyrics in a musical composition where both are written specifically for each other also lasts until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author (of the words or of the music)**

Any sound recording made of a song will be protected for a different period of time from the underlying music or lyrics.

You should also note that. for copyright works originating outside the UK or another country of the European Economic Area (EEA), the term of protection may be shorter if it is shorter in the country of origin. There may also be variations in the term where a work was created before 1 January 1996.

** See the Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013 External Link for futher information.

Fast Facts

  • The Act refers to the duration of copyright in these works at Chapter I sections 12 and 13B