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How long copyright lasts

Information about how long copyright lasts.

The length of time that copyright lasts for original works depends on whether the work was first made public before or after 1 January 2019.

Works before 1 January 2019

Usually, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the person who created the work. The time is calculated from end of the calendar year in which the work was first made public or the author died.

If work not made public before author died

If the work was not first made public before the author died, then copyright lasts for 70 years after the end of the calendar year when the work was first made public.

If author was not generally known

If the author of the work was not generally known before the end of the copyright period, then copyright lasts for 70 years after the end of the calendar year when the work was first made public.

See s. 33—Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Works not made public before 1 January 2019

Generally, copyright lasts until 70 years after the calendar year in which the author died. However there are exceptions.

See s. 33—Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

It is not currently possible to register copyright. However, when someone creates an original work they should include the symbol © beside their name and year of creation. The symbol denotes work is subject to copyright protection. It will then be necessary for someone wishing to challenge ownership to disprove this statement.

It is also important for any artistic work, such as a musical score to be written down or recorded.

There is no copyright in an idea.

The copyright period was extended in Australia as a result of the free trade agreement made between Australia and the United States in 2005. Before this agreement the period of copyright was 50 years after the creator's death. If copyright had already expired before this date, then it was not to be revived for an extra 20 years.

More information

Legislation

Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)

  • s. 33—duration of copyright

See Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

References

The Law Handbook

Fitzroy Legal Service’s Law Handbook has information about the requirements and duration of ownership and copyright protection.

See Copyright.

Copyright Council of Australia

The council has a factsheet that discusses the length of copyright in more detail. Search for 'Duration of copyright'.

See Australian Copyright Council(opens in a new window).

Updated