This page highlights variations in the duration of copyright
across different jurisdictions.
It covers -
supplements the discussion of copyright duration
in the Intellectual Property guide elsewhere on this site.
is indicative only.
The 'life plus x years' model is primarily concerned with
original works; protection for published editions and
performance is often shorter.
Reciprocity means that in some countries a 'law of the
shorter term' places imported books and other works in
the public domain at the same time as they expire in their
'home' country, if that is a shorter time period.
Other variations affect the treatment of works created
by multiple authors, works authored by organizations rather
than individuals, works not published until after the
author's death and imported publications.
In the EU copyright in recorded performances ceases after
50 years, in contrast to the US regime of the performer's
life plus x years. Recordings by notables such as Henri
Salvador and Charles Aznavour thus went out of copyright
during their lifetimes. Salvador lamented in 2006
is a scandal. They are selling off cheap my name, my
image and my old recordings, mixing them up any old
how how and I cannot do anything to stop it. I would
point out that I am still alive.
technocrat, intellectual, banker and music executive Jacques
author of Noise: The Political Economy of Music
(Minneapolis: Uni of Minnesota Press 1985), responded
that "I am putting an artist within the reach of
wallets in all legality, and I am extending his fame".
Overall there has been a strong national and international
trend to longer protection of copyright. The 1905 Australian
Copyright Act, for example, offered protection for a flat
forty two years or for the author's life plus seven years.
That has been progressively extended and in many instances
the period is now life plus seventy years.
Note that regimes in particular countries involve peculiarities
such as France's provision of extra protection to account
for the Second World War (which is regarded as lasting
from 1939 to 1948).
A very small number of third world nations such as Papua
New Guinea, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan
are not signatories to the international copyright conventions
and trade agreements, haven't enacted/implemented national
laws, and haven't entered into bilateral agreements with
copyright giants such as the US.
Those countries often provide no copyright protection
or for a flat period of five to twelve years. Some restrict
protection to local publications/authors or officially
Life plus 25
The 1971 Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)
- now primarily of historical interest after the US became
a signatory to the Berne Convention - specified
that copyright should run for the life of the author plus
(at least) twenty five years.
Most UCC signatories now have longer terms because they
have subsequently signed the Berne Convention or become
members of the World Trade Organization, which requires
adoption of Berne's longer duration as part of the international
Life plus 30
Copyright in Iran lasts for the lifetime of the author
plus thirty years.
Life plus 50
The Berne Convention, described in the international
framework page of the Intellectual
Property guide, specifies that the term of protection
for copyright is the author's life plus (a minimum of)
fifty years, rounded up to the end of the calendar year.
'Life plus fifty' is the standard copyright length in
many countries, including Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina
Faso, Burundi, Chile, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Japan,
Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga,
Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There are idiosyncratic national variations: special 'wartime'
provisions in France and Russia are highlighted below.
Life plus 60
In India and Venezuela, copyright generally lasts for
the author's lifetime plus sixty years.
Life plus 70
This has become the global benchmark since it was adopted
by the European Union.
The EU model has been reflected in legislation in Switzerland,
Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Israel, Hungary, Paraguay,
Peru, Romania, Slovenia, and Turkey. Life plus seventy
years is also the standard duration of copyright in the
United States for many works first published after 1977.
In an earlier edition of this page we suggested that life
plus seventy would presumably be adopted - somewhat belatedly
- by Australia. That forecast has come true, reflecting
the power of US industry interests in negotiation of the
Free Trade Agreement noted above rather than Australian
government concern for local creators - a demonstration
of the geopolitics of IP.
Prior to the EU Directive the term of protection
within EU member counties varied considerably, with a
difference of forty five years between Portugal and Germany.
Harmonisation of the term of protection has meant that
some members have played 'catch up'.
Italy, Portugal and Eire are in the process of finalising
national legislation; as of early 2000 Eire's copyright
regime provided for life plus fifty year protection for
literary works and life plus seventy years for films,
sound recordings, and musical works.
Adoption of life plus seventy years (or longer) in many
countries occurred within the past decade and treatment
of 'retroactive' protection (ie works that had entered
the public domain but in principle would come back into
protection for a few years as a resulted of the extended
term) is inconsistent.
Most European Union countries made the extensions retroactive,
temporarily bringing works back into copyright. Such retroactivity
is discussed in Paul Geller's Zombie and Once-Dead
Works: Copyright Retroactivity After the EC Term Directive
Israel extended its term of protection in 1984, moving
from life plus fifty to life plus seventy. That was not
retroactive; works by authors who died before 1934 remain
in the public domain.
France uniquely extends the EU period with provision for
the annees de guerre: extra time for the First
World War (considered to have lasted from 1914 to 1919)
and the Second World War (1939 to 1948). The Matisse estate,
for example, is protected for the artist's life + the
EU 70 years + five years for WW I + nine years for WW
II. The extension was reaffirmed by French courts in two
decisions during November 2001 and is likely to be challenged
by the European Commission. France also adds a further
thirty years for an author who "died for France".
Outside the EU former USSR states often have a similar
provision: for the works of authors active during the
Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the protection in Russia
is for example prolonged by four years.
Life plus 75
Mexico, Guatemala and St Vincent & the Grenadines
protect, with some exceptions, for the author's life plus
seventy five years. In 2004 the Mexican government mooted
a proposal to move to life plus 100 years.
Life plus 80 and beyond
The duration in Colombia, again with some exceptions,
is the lifetime of the author plus eighty years. Cote
d'Ivoire notionally protects for life plus 99 years.
Section 301 of the UK Copyright, Designs & Patent
Act of 1988 (here)
granted the Hospital for Sick Children an inalienable
right to receive royalties, without limitation as to duration,
for "the public performance, commercial publication,
broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programming service"
of James Barrie's play Peter Pan following expiry
of copyright in the work on 31 December 1987. Authorised
versions of the Bible in the UK are notionally
protected by copyright in perpetuity.
New Zealand, like some other nations, protects crown
copyright - works created by its government (ie public
officials and contractors) - for a period of one hundred
(duration in Australia)