How long do music copyrights last?
Holding a degree in Business Administration and Programming, Pablo established Legis Music in 2016. With a focus on the royalty-free music industry, he has contributed extensively to the field, authoring over 150 articles on various aspects of music licensing. His efforts have been instrumental in developing one of the most straightforward and liberal music licensing frameworks available today.
Music is a fundamental part of our daily lives: we are always surrounded by songs and melodies that accompany us in our daily lives.
However, behind every song there is a creator, an artist who has dedicated hours of his or her life to compose and produce a unique and original work.
Thus, it is necessary that there is a mechanism to protect songs from being used and distributed without the permission of the authors and that the authors are, in turn, rewarded.
This is where copyright comes into play.
However, copyrights do not last forever; their legal protection varies from country to country and from one country to another, and can last for decades or even centuries.
This makes it really important to know the regulations, both for the composers themselves and for the users who are going to use the music in their projects, as the former must know for how long they will have exclusive control of their work, and the latter, to avoid copyright problems.
So, in this article we will explore in detail the copyright, international standards and laws governing the duration of copyright in different countries.
But first of all, we will briefly review what copyright is, what types of copyright exist, their history and the impact they have on the music industry.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the creators of any kind of original work, such as books, music, films and works of art.
These rights allow them to control how their work is used and reproduced, and to receive compensation for it.
In the case of music, copyright protects musical compositions and song lyrics.
This means that composers and lyricists have the exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute and authorise the use of their works by third parties.
In addition, copyrights allow them to make profits from a variety of sources, such as selling records, streaming music online, playing music live at concerts, and using music in films, commercials and other media.
Thus, there are different types of copyright, which are discussed below.
Types of copyright
Having described what copyright is, we can say that there are two types of rights:
Moral rights are those that grant the creator of a musical work the right to be recognised as its author, the right to preserve its integrity and prevent any alteration or modification of it that could harm his reputation, and the right to decide when and how his work is disclosed to the public.
They are inalienable and inherently part of the person.
They cannot be sold and only cease to belong to the author upon his or her death, at which point they become the property of his or her heirs.
Economic rights, on the other hand, are those that remunerate the author and are subject to time limits, and, unlike moral rights, can be transferred by means of an appropriate contract.
These rights are divided into 5:
- Reproduction right. This is the right to authorise the reproduction of his musical work, whether in the form of a recording, physical or digital copy. - Distribution right. This is the right to transmit or make the music available to the public. - Right of public communication. This is the right to authorise the public communication of the work, whether on radio, television, internet… - Right of transmogrification. This is the right to authorise the creation of derivative versions of the musical work, such as remixes, instrumental versions or adaptations in other languages.
It is important to note that these economic rights have a limited duration and vary according to the country and the applicable legislation.
As we can see, copyright is a fundamental part of music, necessary to be able to regulate and control its use. However, an even more relevant issue is their duration, as this directly affects access to music and the way it is used and shared in society.
Importance of the duration of copyright in music.
The duration of copyright in music is an issue of great importance for music creators, consumers and the industry in general.
On the one hand, it allows music creators to control who can use their work and how it is used.
The duration of these rights therefore determines for how long they can control and receive economic benefits for their work.
As we will explain later, in general, the duration of copyright in music is 70 years after the death of the creator of the work, which means that music created by an artist remains the property of that artist (or his or her heirs) during his or her lifetime and after his or her death for a significant period of time.
This gives the creator or his family the opportunity to benefit financially from his work during his lifetime and beyond.
On the negative side, a longer copyright period may also limit access to music and restrict the creativity of other artists.
If works are protected by copyright for very long periods of time, other artists may find it difficult to create new works based on them or using elements of them.
On the other hand, the duration of copyright also affects consumers and the music industry in general, as longer copyright duration may limit the amount of music available for use in derivative works, which may limit creativity and innovation in music.
However, a shorter duration of copyright may reduce the incentives for music creators to create new works.
It can therefore be concluded that the duration of copyright in music has an important impact on the music industry, as it allows creativity and innovation to be encouraged, while also allowing music creators to control and profit from their work for a significant period of time.
But where did these copyrights come from? When were they created?
History of music copyright duration
The origins of copyright in music date back to the Renaissance period in Europe, when composers began to protect their works from unauthorised copying.
During this period, music printing became popular and composers became concerned about the loss of income due to unauthorised distribution of their works.
Thus, over the next few centuries, composers began to seek legal protection for their works, establishing copyright laws and controlling the printing and sale of musical works.
As the music industry developed in the 19th and 20th century, copyright became a fundamental part of the industry.
Composers and publishers began to work together to protect their works and ensure fair revenues for their use and distribution.
Legal copyright protection expanded as technology advanced, including radio, film, television and online music.
The current duration of copyright in music varies depending on the country and region of the world you are in, but in general, the duration extends over a period of time starting from the moment the work is created and ending after a certain number of years following the author’s death.
In the following, we will look at international standards and also specify the duration of copyright in each country.
There is no universally accepted international standard on the duration of copyright in music.
Each country has its own copyright law and therefore the duration of copyright in music can vary significantly from country to country.
However, there are certain international agreements that have influenced copyright laws around the world. For example, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is an international treaty, to which most countries in the world are signatories, that sets basic standards for copyright protection worldwide.
In addition, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a United Nations agency that works to promote the protection of intellectual property rights worldwide.
It has developed a number of international treaties and agreements related to copyright, including the WIPO “Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty”. These treaties set international standards on copyright and seek to harmonise copyright laws around the world.
Despite these international efforts, the duration of copyright in music remains a controversial issue and is actively debated around the world.
In the meantime, each country has chosen to set its own rules and duration of copyright in songs.
Current duration of copyright in music.
Broadly speaking, we can say that in most countries, the duration of copyright for music is 70 years right after the death of the author.
However, there are countries where this rule is not complied with and, moreover, may or may not apply depending on the year of creation of the songs.
Thus, we have made a list of different countries, specifying the rules that apply in each one:
- United States. In the United States, the duration of copyright in music is 70 years after the death of the author for works created after 1 January 1978. For works created before that date, the duration may vary, but in general, it is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation. 2. United Kingdom. In the UK, the duration of copyright in music is also 70 years after the author’s death. However, if the work has not been published, the duration is 70 years from creation or 50 years after publication, whichever is longer. 3. Australia. The duration of copyright in music is also 70 years after the author’s death. 4. Canada. In Canada, the duration of copyright in music is 50 years after the author’s death. However, if the work was created before 1949, the term is 75 years from creation. 5. Japan. In Japan, the duration of copyright in music is 50 years after the death of the author. 6. France. In France, the duration of copyright in music is 70 years after the author’s death. However, for anonymous or collaboratively created works, the duration is 70 years from publication or 25 years from creation, whichever is longer.
It is important to note that the duration of copyright in music may vary depending on the type of work and other factors, such as whether or not the work was registered at the time of creation.
Moreover, it is possible that there may be changes to the duration of copyright in the future, as this is a subject that is constantly being debated.
How long does copyright last in the United States?
In the United States, copyright is regulated by the U.S. Copyright Act.
This law provides that copyright protection is automatically granted to any original work as soon as it is created in a tangible form (such as a recording, manuscript or sheet music) and maintained in that form. It is not necessary to register the work in order for it to have copyright protection, although it is recommended to do so in order to have a public record and to be able to better protect your rights if any kind of infringement occurs.
As for copyright in music, it lasts for the life of the author and up to 70 years after his or her death. This means that, once an author dies, his or her heirs or any other person designated in his or her will as beneficiary, retain the copyright in his or her work for that period of time.
If the work is jointly authored, the term is extended to 70 years after the death of the last author. For example, if a song was written by two authors and one of them died in 1990 and the other in 2000, the copyright in that song will remain protected until the year 2070.
However, for works created before 1 January 1978, the term of copyright protection is 95 years from the date of publication. This is because US copyright law has evolved over time, and different rules applied before that date.
How long does copyright last in the United Kingdom?
In the UK, copyright in music generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after his or her death. As in the United States, if the work is jointly authored, the term extends to 70 years after the death of the last author.
For works created before 1 August 1989, the term of copyright protection in music is 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the recording was made or the work was published, whichever is later.
However, it is important to note that there are some exceptions to this rule in the UK.
For example, if the music is used in a film, the term of protection is extended to 70 years from the death of the last author instead of the 50 years mentioned above. In addition, if the music is created specifically for a play or opera, the term of protection is 70 years from the death of the last author of the music or libretto, whichever is the later.
In summary, in the UK copyright in music generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death, but there are some exceptions to this rule depending on how the music is used and when it was created.
But what happens when this term is over – do the songs disappear?
What happens when copyright expires?
When the copyright period for the songs ends, the songs become Public Domain, so anyone can use them without obtaining permission or paying royalties.
Music that is in the Public Domain can be copied, distributed, adapted, performed and displayed in public free of charge. In other words, it is as if they belong to everyone.
Thus, there is a large bank of songs and musical works freely available for anyone to use in any way they wish.
In any case, if you want to know a little more about the Public Domain, we recommend you take a look at this article on our website.
Although the purpose of this article is to specify the duration of copyright (we have seen that it depends on the regulations of each country and the type of rights referred to), a brief review has been made of what they are, the differentiation between moral rights and economic rights and the impact and importance of their duration in the music industry, as well as what happens when this period ends.
The world of copyright in music is quite wide and there are many factors to analyse and take into account when using songs in projects.
That is why on our website you can find numerous articles with information that will help you choose the right music.
If you have any questions, we invite you to contact us. We will be happy to help you.
- What is copyright?
- Types of copyright
- Importance of the duration of copyright in music.
- History of music copyright duration
- International standards
- Current duration of copyright in music.
- How long does copyright last in the United States?
- How long does copyright last in the United Kingdom?
- What happens when copyright expires?
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