The Public Domain In The United Kingdom And Other Countries


The Public Domain In The United Kingdom And Other Countries

A Public Domain Expert Series Report


The copyright laws vary from country to country, so space will not permit me to share all the copyright scenarios for each country around the world. I would highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the copyright laws that govern intellectual property rights in your own country. While I am not a copyright attorney who can help you navigate through the tangled, and sometimes, confusing web of international copyright law, I will share with you what I’ve learned and understand to be true. As an example, I’ll share how this usage of Public Domain works from the United States would be viewed in the UK, and how the copyright laws of the UK affect its own works (books, photographs, films, audios, etc.).

In the UK, the copyright laws work differently than those in the United States. The general rule of thumb concerning copyright for literary works is that the copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author or creator of the work. So if a work was published in 1930 in the UK, and the author died in 1934, the work would have passed into the Public Domain in the UK in 2004. However if the author of the same work did not die until 1948, the work would not pass into the Public Domain until 2018. There are some exceptions, such as, when more than one person is listed as author or creator of the work. In that case, the length of the copyright is determined as 70 years after the death of the longest lived of those individuals. So if a work was written by two authors who collaborated together, and one author died in 1934 and the other died in 1948, the copyright would remain in effect until 2018, seventy years from the death of the remaining author.

There is an excellent guide online that has been compiling the names of authors and their works who died in each year since 1700. This guide currently catalogs over 113,000 authors, and can be used to determine whose copyrights expire(d) each New Year in past and future years. You can access this guide, not only for the authors of books, but for magazines and other literary works as well…


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