Commons:Copyright rules by territory

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Worldwide map of copyright term length
VTE Copyright rules by territory
By topic
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Americas
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Oceania

Laws about copyright differ from country to country. Images uploaded to Commons, unless uploaded from the United States, involve the interaction of two or more copyright jurisdictions. The laws of individual countries differ especially in the following points:

  • The time for which a copyright applies. In most countries, copyright on works published during the author's lifetime expires 50 or 70 years after the death of the author (p.m.a.).
  • Status of works of the government. In many (but not all) countries, documents published by the government for official use are in the public domain.
  • Material applicable for copyright. In some jurisdictions, pictures of artistic work like architecture, sculptures, clothing etc. can not be used freely without the consent of the creator of the original artwork.

Almost all countries in the world are party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (see here for the text). Following this convention, countries enforce copyrights from other countries, according to certain rules.

Full details for each country or territory can reached directly from the infobox to the right.

International law[edit]

Berne Convention[edit]

Almost all countries in the world are party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (see here for the text). Following this convention, countries enforce copyrights from other countries, according to certain rules. One consequence of these rules is that we should always care about the laws of the country of origin of the work.

Most important is article 7, which sets the term of duration of the protections granted by the Convention. The Convention sets a minimal term of 50 years after the life of the authors (subject to some exceptions). However, each country is free to set longer terms.

In any case, the term shall be governed by the legislation of the country where protection is claimed; however, unless the legislation of that country otherwise provides, the term shall not exceed the term fixed in the country of origin of the work.

Even though many countries have accepted the rule of the shorter term based on Article 7 of the Convention, please note that the United States Copyright Act has not honored such a rule. For example, 17 U.S.C. 104A(a)(1)(B) may restore copyright on a work published outside the USA for the remaining American copyright term even if its copyright may expire sooner in its source country. This may affect works that were still copyrighted on 1 January 1996 in their source countries. This means, that a work now in the public domain in a Commons user's home country might still be legally copyrighted in the United States. For further details, visit the Non-US copyrights guideline at the English Wikipedia for a list of dates regarding American copyright restoration of non-U.S. copyrights.

European copyright law[edit]

The European Union has issued directives harmonizing copyright rules in the European Union (see Copyright law of the European Union). Note, however, that directives, unlike European regulations, do not apply uniformly. They have to be transposed into national law by each country's legislature, and they often offer significant leeway in doing so. This is, for instance, the case for the legal exemptions of copyright (equivalent of "fair use"), which are allowed to differ within certain limits.

The most important, for our purposes, is the Directive on harmonizing the term of copyright protection (text). This directive sets the duration of copyright to 70 years following the death of the author (for multiple authors, of the last author; for collective, pseudonymous or anonymous works, following the date of publication).

However, this directive does not shorten already running extended copyright terms in countries that apply them.

The 2001 EUCD, article, 5 specifies exceptions to copyright. However, only one of these exceptions is mandatory (it concerns caching). The others are optional, meaning that for each exception, each country is free to choose whether it adopts it and how it restricts it. Thus, one should not assume that one exception true in one EU country applies in another. Notably, each country is free to chose how to copyright objects permanently located in public places and "simple" photographs.

Finally, there is a considerable amount of case law or jurisprudence on these issues. In some cases, they may create rights or restrictions that do not appear in the text of the law. Thus, one should always be wary in how the law is interpreted in the country of interest, as opposed to merely reading the legal texts.

Country-specific laws[edit]

Laws about copyright differ from country to country. Images uploaded to Commons, unless uploaded from the United States, involve the interaction of two or more copyright jurisdictions. Generally, the policy applied on Commons is to only allow images that can be used in all (or at least most) countries. The laws of individual countries differ especially in the following points:

  • The time for which a copyright applies. In most countries, copyright expires no later than 70 years after the death of the author (p.m.a.).
  • Status of works of the government. In many (but not all) countries, documents published by the government for official use are in the public domain.
  • Material applicable for copyright. In some jurisdictions, pictures of artistic work like architecture, sculptures, clothing etc. can not be used freely without the consent of the creator of the original artwork.

The safest way to apply international copyright law is to consider the laws of all the relevant jurisdictions and then use the most restrictive combination of laws to determine whether something is copyrighted or not. The jurisdictions that might need to be considered are:

  • The place where the work was created;
  • The place where the work is being uploaded from;
  • The place that any web server the work has been downloaded from physically is;
  • The United States.

A work is only allowed on Commons if it is either public domain in all relevant jurisdictions or if there is a free licence which applies to the work in all relevant jurisdictions.

In the case of a painting published in France please do apply US-American copyright laws as those copyright laws apply to the servers of Commons. Also apply the copyright laws of the country you are in and the copyright laws of any web server you got the work off. In the case of a French painting uploaded to Commons from a French web server by someone living in the UK three copyright jurisdictions would apply: France, UK and US. US law would mean that if the painting had not been published before 1923 it would be in copyright. British law would mean that if the painting was by an artist who had been dead for less than 70 years it would be in copyright. French law would mean that, if the painting was by an artist who died while in service for France (a concept called Mort pour la France), it would be in copyright for 100 years after the artist's death: an additional 30 years past the term provided by British law. In this case the most restrictive combination of jurisdictions would be French and US. Only if the painting was legally in the public domain in both France and the United States could it be uploaded from a French web server to Commons.

UNESCO has a collection of national copyright laws that should be referred to when creating country-specific tags such as those below.

The Public Domain Calculator by the Europeana Connect project/Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is useful (for people who are not legal newbies) for determining the copyright status of European works in their source nations.

Authorship[edit]

  • Rules are generally different for works with known authors and works published anonymously or pseudonymously. Works published anonymously or pseudonymously may gain the standard known-author copyright term if authorship is subsequently made public.
  • Rules may also be different for works of collective, corporate or government authorship.
  • Note that copyright rules based on the death of the author normally assume the work to have been published, and often require the work to have been published during the author's lifetime. Unpublished works, or works published posthumously, may have different rules.

See also Commons:Anonymous works.

Derivative works[edit]

Main page: Commons:Derivative works.

Many creative works are derivatives of other creative works. This may be a copyright infringement if the work used is not in the public domain. Exceptions exist for allowing derivatives to be made without infringing copyright; whether and how these apply varies widely across countries, by subject matter, and may depend on a range of circumstances.

See

VTE Copyright rules by territory
United Nations geographical subregions.png
UN geographical subregions. Click on image to enlarge.
Africa
Americas
Asia
Europe
Oceania All countries and territories

Consolidated lists[edit]

The table to the right gives links to consolidated lists of copyright rules for countries within the subregions defined in the United Nations geoscheme.

For consolidated lists of copyright rules for all countries in alphabetic sequence, see

Click on a link in the table below to see the copyright rules for a given country or territory.

VTE Copyright rules by territory
By topic
Africa
Americas
Asia
Europe
Oceania

Disclaimer[edit]

This page does not represent the views of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., its Board, Executive Director, or General Counsel, nor should it be taken as such. Each contributor has responsibility for their own actions, with or without independent legal advice.

See also Commons:General disclaimer.

Policies and guidelines[edit]

External links[edit]