Commons:Anonymous works

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An anonymous work refers to a work where the author is unknown, undisclosed, or has been deliberately attributed as anonymous. Due to the Berne Convention, all new creative works, within the boundary of local laws, are automatically subject to copyright protection, even if they are published with no author information or under a pseudonym on purpose (otherwise known as an anonymous work). Anonymous works bring special consideration in judging if a work is in the public domain.

Anonymous works are different from situations where images on the Internet or elsewhere may simply lack a label, credit line or other appropriate attribution which credits the author. In this situation, more work should be done to find the name of the creator, such as contacting the web host or reviewing the file's metadata. See the comparison below.

Comparison[edit]

In all cases, detailed author information must be provided when uploading images to Commons, and claims of the anonymity of an author must be verifiable with reliable sources.

Anonymous works[edit]

An anonymous work is a work published by its author, who wishes to remain anonymous, and either under no name at all, or a pseudonym that easily cannot be connected to its creator, defined in US law as "a work on the copies or phonorecords of which no natural person is identified as author." Often the rules for copyright expiration change if this is the case. If there is no known author, a date of death (if any) cannot be established. So in most cases, the protection of copyright is a fixed term beginning from the first date of publication. Article 7.3 of the Berne Convention mandates a minimum of 50 years of protection for anonymous works from the date it was "lawfully made available to the public", rather than a term for 50 years after the author's death.

In most countries however, if the author then discloses his identity after publication, the normal term is granted automatically like it was never even published anonymously. However, only case law in some countries has actually specified what could happen if the author revealed themselves after the term ends.

No author information[edit]

Works that do not immediately cite attribution to an author are not automatically 'anonymous'. Across the Internet, websites often offer images without attributing the author. In most cases, the image was published by an author, but it was exhibited on a site simply without mention of them. This could be a failure of the site to accurately cite the author of the works they are hosting, or part of the distribution relationship with an organisation. For example, a organisation may release photographs it has purchased under its own brand name without specifying the individual photographers who were involved. For these reasons, it is typically not correct to assume an author has intended anonymity.

Situations by country[edit]

Unless otherwise noted, it is assumed that most countries utilize the 50 years rule under the Berne Convention.

70 years after publishing[edit]

In most European Union countries due to the harmonization of copyright terms, an anonymous work is given 70 years of protection from the day it was published (which can often make anonymous works published before 1947 be considered to be in the public domain). Albania, Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Norway, and Paraguay also use 70 years.

France[edit]

Article L123-3 of the Code de la propriété intellectuelle :

In France, an anonymous work is given 70 years of protection from the start of the year after it was published, rather than the date it was published. If the author discloses themselves within 70 years after the first publication, the protection duration become the same as for normally published works (at least 70 years after death of author).

If an anonymous work was not published within 70 years after its creation, its owner who publishes it for the first time is granted an exclusive right for a duration of 25 years from the beginning of the year after the year of its publication.

Canada[edit]

Canada uses 50 years after publication or 75 after creation, whichever is earlier.

India[edit]

Anonymous works are protected for 60 years from the date of publication.

Mongolia[edit]

Anonymous works are protected for 75 years after publication.

Russia[edit]

Anonymous works are protected for 70 years after publication. See {{PD-Russia}} for more.

United Kingdom[edit]

If the author is unknown then the basic time period to bear in mind is 70 years. If the work has an unknown author and was created after 30 August 1989 copyright expires either 70 years after creation or if during that period the work is made available to the public 70 years after that. If the work is a photograph with an unknown author taken before 1 June 1957 then copyright expires 70 years after creation or if during that period the work is made available to the public 70 years after that. If the work was created before 1969 with an unknown author then several scenarios can apply:

  1. If the work was published before 30 August 1989 then copyright expires 70 years after first publication.
  2. If the work is unpublished and was first made available to the public after 1968 then copyright expires 70 years after the work was first made available to the public.
  3. If the work is unpublished and has never been made available to the public then copyright expires at the end of 2039.
  4. If the work is unpublished and was first made available to the public before 1969 then copyright expires at the end of 2039.

United States[edit]

Many anonymous and pseudonymous works published before 1989 are in the public domain the United States, but only because U.S. law previously required a copyright notice, registration, and renewal in order to gain or maintain protection: If a work was published before 1989, with the permission of the author, but without a copyright notice or without copyright registration, the work passed into the public domain in the United States. However, anonymity itself does not prevent a copyright: The work can still have a copyright notice and be registered in the United States as an anonymous or pseudonymous work. Even when a work is credited as anonymous or pseudonymous, the U.S. allows the option of providing or omitting the author's real name, birth year, and death year on the registration; so, if a work was registered, it might or might not be possible to determine the real author's death year.

A work that was created after 1897, but not published and not registered, can still retain copyright for the following 120 years if the author is not known; unpublished works are copyrighted without needing copyright notices or registration.

For works first published or registered in 1989 or later, the copyright terms are now 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is less, unless it was first published outside the country and entered the public domain before January 1, 1996.

Corporate authors follow the same rules as anonymous and pseudonymous authors whose death date cannot be determined.

See also[edit]