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Copyright on unpublished works

Proposed changes to copyright law will allow museums to use, NMDC UK Newsletter, December 2014

Source: Intellectual Property Office

Source: Intellectual Property Office

The Government is consulting on more changes to copyright legislation which could have a beneficial impact on museums. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has drawn up proposals to reduce the term of copyright in unpublished works, including sound recordings, to be in line with published works (the author’s lifetime plus 70 years).

Presently, all unpublished works created before 1989 remain in copyright until 2039 and this means some very old works remain in copyright or that an artist’s letters and diaries may remain in copyright long after the term of copyright in their artwork expired. The Government consultation on the proposed changes closes on 12th December, and organisations are encouraged to submit responses by email. IPO

A group called Free Our History, which includes the Imperial War Museum and CILIP, is leading a campaign to support the proposed reduction in the period of time before unpublished orphan works are no longer in copyright. IWM Director General Diane Lees said, “During the First World War centenary commemorations, many organisations want to make original unpublished works such as diaries and letters accessible to the public. Because they are still under copyright protection, they cannot do so without seeking permission from the rights holder. This is even more problematic if the rights holders are untraceable.”  Museums Journal, CILIP

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