How long does copyright last?

Contributed by Australian Copyright Council and current to May 2022


For literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, copyright will generally last for the life of the creator plus 70 years (s 33).

If a creator died and published their work before 1 January 1955, copyright in those works has expired. This is because prior to legislative change in 2005, the duration of copyright was the life of the creator plus 50 years. Copyright that had already expired was not revived by the change.

For full summary and breakdown of how long copyright lasts see the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Duration of Copyright.

Subject-matter other than works

Sound Recordings

Sound recordings are protected for 70 years from the year the recording was first published (s 93).

Sound recordings will often contain underlying materials (e.g. lyrics and music) which are protected by their own copyright. There will often be situations where although copyright in one thing has expired, copyright will remain in something else. For example, although the musical works of Mozart are in the public domain, a 2001 recording of Mozart’s music performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will still be protected by copyright.

Cinematograph films

Films are protected for 70 years from the year they were first published (s 93).

Like sound recordings, a film will typically contain several underlying copyright works (e.g. the screenplay, as a dramatic work, and music, as musical works, and sound recordings). This means that there are often situations where although copyright in one type of material has expired, you still must consider copyright in the other materials.


Broadcasts are protected for 50 years from the year they were first broadcast (s 95).

Published editions

Published editions are protected for 25 years from the year of first publication (s 96).

Government material

Copyright for material owned by the Commonwealth, state or territory government lasts for 50 years from the date that the material was made, or the end of the year of the first publication (s 180). This rule also applies to material that would have been owned by the government, but for an agreement to the contrary.

It does not apply to local government material.

Unpublished works

The term of protection for unpublished works generally lasts until 70 years after its creator’s death. However, if the creator is not generally known within 70 years that the work was created or (eventually) made public, copyright expires 70 years after the work was made or made public.

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