How long does Copyright last?

  • For literary, dramatic and musical works that were published during the lifetime of the author, copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died.
  • For published sound recordings and films, the duration of copyright is 70 years from the end of the year in which the recording or film was published.

Where such items remain unpublished, the copyright term may not commence until publication takes place. In contrast, for artistic works, copyright lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years, and publication status is irrelevant.

The 70 year copyright terms above came into effect on 1 January 2005 when the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) amendments were made to the Copyright Act. The previous terms were generally 50 years and the 2005 changes were not applied retrospectively or to government publications.

To calculate the copyright status of older works, find out if the period of copyright protection expired by 1 January 2005. For example, if an author died prior to 1 January 1955, works published during his or her lifetime are now out of copyright because the 50 year period of copyright protection elapsed by 1 January 2005.  

For more information on calculating the duration of copyright see the Australian Copyright Council information sheet Duration of copyright (G023), available from their website

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Page last updated: Friday 31 January 2014

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