Commons:Copyright rules by territory/United Kingdom

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This page provides an overview of copyright rules of the United Kingdom relevant to uploading works into Wikimedia Commons. Note that any work originating in the United Kingdom must be in the public domain, or available under a free license, in both the United Kingdom and the United States before it can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. If there is any doubt about the copyright status of a work from the United Kingdom, refer to the relevant laws for clarification.

Governing laws

United Kingdom has been a member of the Berne Convention since 5 December 1887, the World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995 and the WIPO Copyright Treaty since 14 March 2010.[1]

As of 2018 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations, listed the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (Chapter 48, incorporating amendments up to the Digital Economy Act 2017) as the main IP law enacted by the legislature of United Kingdom.[1] WIPO holds the text of this law in their WIPO Lex database.[2] An up-to-date version of the Act is also available in structured form on legislation.gov.uk.[3]

Prior to 1988, copyright was governed by the Copyright Act 1956.

Summary

  • Standard copyright term: Life + 70 years
  • Crown copyright:
    • 50 years from first commercial publication, but
    • works except engravings created prior to 30 June 1957: 50 years from creation
  • Anonymous works
    • Photographs created before 30 June 1957: 70 years after creation if unpublished, 70 years after publication if published within 70 years of creation
  • Posthumous works
    • Non-photographic works, published posthumously before 1945, where author died 20 years or more before publication: 50 years after publication

General

As with the European Union, the basic copyright term in the United Kingdom is life of the author plus 70 years. The author must be a natural person and cannot be a corporation. There are a number of details which must be taken into account, however. Works in the United Kingdom fall into two categories for the purposes of copyright duration: government works and non-government works. The former are covered by Crown copyright and Parliamentary copyright and their special duration rules, and the latter by ordinary copyright duration rules.

Crown copyright

Shortcut
Chart for determining expiry of Crown copyright

Crown copyright works have a basic term of protection of 50 years from date of commercial publication. For Crown works created before the entry into force of the Copyright Act 1956 on 30 June 1957 other rules apply. Crown copyright photographs created prior to 30 June 1957 have a copyright term of 50 years from creation. Published Crown copyright engravings created prior to 30 June 1957 have a copyright term of 50 years from commercial publication. Unpublished Crown copyright engravings of the period come out of copyright at the end of 2039. Crown artistic works other than engravings and photographs created prior to 30 June 1957 have a copyright term of 50 years from creation.

Further special rules apply to Crown artistic works created between 30 June 1957 and the entry into force of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 on 1 August 1989. Published engravings created in this period are still out of copyright 50 years after commercial publication. Unpublished engravings created in this period come out of copyright at the end of 2039 as before. Published photographs are out of copyright 50 years after publication. Unpublished photographs come out of copyright at the end of 2039. Other artistic works come out of copyright 50 years after creation.

Tim Padfield has prepared a flowchart that summarizes these durations.[4]

Crown copyright sound recordings follow the same rules as other sound recordings below.

Ordnance Survey OpenData licence

The Ordnance Survey OpenData licence has been designed to be compatible with Creative Commons BY 3.0 and appears to be okay.[5][6]

Open Government Licence

Some works published from 2010 are available under the UK Open Government Licence (OGL).[6] The first version was meant to be compatible with the CC BY 3.0 licence, the latest version 3 with the CC-BY-4.0 licence. Three versions of the OGL exist. The following templates are available:

The OGL3 licence does NOT cover personal data, logos, military insignia, patents etc. A list is found on the template.

Non-Commercial Government Licence

The government also publishes a licence called Non-Commercial Government Licence[7]. This is unacceptable by the Wikimedia Commons as it disallows the commercial reproductions. This licence was intended for use in a small handful of extremely limited circumstances and has not been widely adopted in government. See also Commons:Deletion requests/File:Canoe Slalom - Kynan Maley.jpg.

Parliamentary copyright

Parliamentary copyright was created by the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 and its duration rules are the same as for Crown copyright materials created after 30 August 1989.

Copyright on sound recordings

If the source material is out of copyright, sound recordings leave copyright after 70 years from first publication.

Sound recordings created before 1 June 1957 had a copyright duration of 50 years from creation (section 19, Copyright Act 1911), so they are all now in the public domain. Sound recordings first published between 1 June 1957 and 31 October 1963 had a copyright duration of 50 years from publication (section 12, Copyright Act 1956), so those are also in the public domain. Copyright was extended to 70 years from publication in 2013, so the next recordings to enter the public domain will do so in 2034.

Ordinary copyright

Chart for determining expiry of UK copyright

For ordinary copyright works the largest distinction is between those with a known author and those with a pseudonymous or anonymous author. There are also distinctions in copyright term between artistic works and sound recordings. The commencement dates for the Copyright Act 1957 and the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 are also crucial. For a summary of these rules see the flowchart.[8] This means that some works whose copyright expired before the 1988 act came into force were brought back into copyright.

Known author

If the work was created after 30 August 1989 and has a known author copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author. If the work is a photograph with a known author taken before 30 June 1957 then copyright also expires 70 years after the death of the author. If the work is a non-photograph artistic work with a known author which was created prior to 30 August 1989 then several scenarios can apply:

  1. If the work was published during the author's lifetime then copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.
  2. If the work was published before 30 August 1989 and the author died more than 20 years before publication then copyright expires 50 years after publication.
  3. If the work was published before 30 August 1989 and the author died less than 20 years before publication then copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.
  4. If the work was not published before 30 August 1989 and the author died after 1968 then copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.
  5. If the work was not published before 30 August 1989 and the author died before 1969 then copyright expires at the end of 2039.

Unknown author

Commons:Anonymous works:United_Kingdom

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 by being published, 70 years after publication. 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 may apply:

  1. If the work was published before 30 August 1989 then copyright expires 70 years after that 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.

Typographical copyright

If scanning a copyright-expired work from a British publication, typographical copyright must be borne in mind.[9] This subsists for 25 years from creation of the publication and covers the typographical arrangement of the publication. It does not exist in the United States.

Publication right

One related right to copyright that must be borne in mind in the United Kingdom is publication right. This applies to ordinary copyright works but does not apply to Crown copyright works. If the copyright of an unpublished work has expired (virtually impossible before 2040) then the first publisher of that work is entitled to publication right over that work. Publication right has the same rules as copyright but only lasts for 25 years. It does not exist in the United States.

Database right

If scanning material from a publication from 1982 or later database right must also be borne in mind. This right normally lasts 15 years from creation or substantial amendment of the database. Many books count as databases due to their systematic arrangement of information. Under transitional provisions works created from 1982-1997 are also covered by database right until the end of 2012, ie 15 years after the passage of the original legislation. It does not exist in the United States.

Commissioned works

See also: Commons:Commissioned works

The rule on commissioned works in the United Kingdom is provided by the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) website.[10]

Accordingly, the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act of 1988 empowers the exclusive rights of the authors. This means, unless there is a signed agreement transfering the copyright to someone else, the copyright in a commissioned work since August 1, 1989 is retained by the author or the person who created or designed the work. There may be some exceptions to this rule, however. For example, the commissioner holds the copyright if they may have "an implied licence to use the work", at least for the purposes of commission, and if the artist made the work while employed.

The copyrights in the commissioned works made prior to 1 August 1989 are generally held by the commissioners.

  • For commissioned works created from 1 June 1957 to 31 July 1989, copyright stays with the commissioner when the works are "commissioned", under the Copyright Act 1956. "Commissioning" is defined here as "the payment or agreement to pay for a work with money or something of equivalent value." This means, the copyright in a work made by an artist while employed remains with the employer (the commissioner). Works made by artists under employment by a newspaper, magazine, or periodical owner, but solely for the purpose of publishing in the said publications, are likewise covered. In cases of other uses of commissioned works, the artists retain the ownership of copyright.
  • The Copyright Act 1911 applies to commissioned works made from 1 July 1912 to 31 May 1957. It had provisions identical to those at the Copyright Act 1956.
  • For commissioned works made prior to 1 July 1912, the 1862 Fine Arts Copyright Act governs, stating that copyright of a painting, drawing, or photograph done for or on behalf of another person "for good and valuable consideration" belongs to the commissioner.

Copyright tags

See also: Commons:Copyright tags

The following are copyright tags/ templates for UK works. If you are uploading a UK-based work to Commons, please find the corresponding tag and add it to the licensing information for the item you are uploading (copy and paste, if you like). When you then save the file, these tags will expand to produce and appropriate text for that kind of license.

  • {{PD-UK-unknown}} – old UK images of unknown authorship where copyright has expired
    • {{PD-Britannica}} – images from the 12th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica or earlier.
  • {{PD-UKGov}} – UK Crown copyright images where copyright has expired (typically works created prior to 1972)
    • {{OldOS}} – Ordnance Survey maps published in the UK over 50 years ago.
    • {{OS OpenData}} – Ordnance Survey maps published in the UK.

The UK's Open Government Licence (OGL) (view in English or Welsh) is a simple set of terms and conditions that facilitates the re-use of a wide range of public sector information free of charge. Since 2010, almost all information owned by the UK Crown is offered for use and re-use under the Open Government Licence. The licence is also used by other bodies, including local government.

The Open Parliament License (OPL) facilitates the free use of material made available by the House of Commons or the House of Lords in which copyright or database right subsists. Almost all material produced by Parliament and its committees is governed by the Open Parliament License.

Cheque

See also: Commons:Cheque

OOjs UI icon check-constructive.svg OK in some cases. The design of standard UK cheques is below threshold of originality. However, many cheques include logos, watermarks, and other features that are sufficiently original to be protected by copyright; these cheques can not be uploaded to Commons.

Currency

See also: Commons:Currency

OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK. UK banknotes are fully protected by copyright. The Bank of England owns the copyright on its banknotes, and all banknotes carry a © notice.[11] No images of these banknotes may be uploaded to Commons. Those that are will be deleted.

Coin designs are copyrighted by the Royal Mint.[12]

Publishing images of coins is not prohibited by the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981.[13] Its Section 19 refers only to "imitation British coins", defined as "any thing which resembles a British coin in shape, size and the substance of which it is made". The implication here is that images cannot resemble the substance of the real coins. However, since such images may only be published with the official consent of the Royal Mint, none of these images is allowed on Commons.

The Royal Mint's copyright on coin designs is an instance of Crown Copyright. Sculptures subject to Crown Copyright which were created more than 50 years ago are now in the public domain: use {{PD-UKGov}}. Images of British coins with designs created more than 50 years ago are permissible provided that the author of the work containing the coins is willing to release his / her copyright to the reuse of the image, which is a separate copyright concern and must also be addressed.

The Bank of England is not a government department, so its banknotes follow the usual rules of copyright: usually 70 years from the death of the author ({{PD-old-70}}) or 70 years from publication where the author is unknown ({{PD-UK-unknown}}).

Scottish and Northern Irish banks will retain their own copyright on banknotes independent of the Bank of England; however, in the United Kingdom, it is a criminal offence under s18(1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 "to reproduce on any substance whatsoever, and whether or not on the correct scale, any British currency note or any part of a British currency note."[13] The term "British currency note" is defined as something which "has been lawfully issued in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland", "is or has been customarily used as money in the country where it was issued", and is payable on demand" - this includes Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes, as well as those issued by the Bank of England.

De minimis

See also: Commons:De minimis

Section 31 of the UK Copyright, Designs and patents Act 1988, as subsequently amended in 2003, states that:

  • Copyright in a work is not infringed by its incidental inclusion in an artistic work, sound recording, film, or broadcast.

"Artistic work", as defined within the act, includes photographs.

Freedom of panorama

See also: Commons:Freedom of panorama

OOjs UI icon check-constructive.svg OK for 3D works
OOjs UI icon check-constructive.svg OK for 2D "works of artistic craftsmanship"
OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK for 2D "graphic works" {{FoP-UK}}

Section 62 of the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is broader than the corresponding provisions in many other countries, and allows photographers to take pictures of

  • buildings, and
  • sculptures, models for buildings and works of artistic craftsmanship (if permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public).

without breaching copyright. Such photographs may be published in any way.

Note that under UK law, "works of artistic craftsmanship" are defined separately from "graphic works". Graphic works are defined in Section 4 as any painting, drawing, diagram, map, chart or plan, any engraving, etching, lithograph, woodcut or similar work. The freedom provided by Section 62 does not apply to graphic works - such as a mural or poster - even if they are permanently located in a public place. These cannot be uploaded to Commons without a licence from the copyright holder.

The courts have not established a consistent test for what is meant by a "work of artistic craftsmanship", but one of the standard reference works on copyright, Copinger and Skone James, suggests that for a work to be considered as such the creator must be both a craftsman and an artist.[14] Evidence of the intentions of the maker are relevant, and according to the House of Lords case of Hensher -v- Restawile [1976] AC 64, it is "relevant and important, although not a paramount or leading consideration" if the creator had the conscious purpose of creating a work of art. It is not necessary for the work to be describable as 'fine art'.

In Hensher -v- Restawile, some examples were given of typical articles that might be considered works of artistic craftsmanship, including hand-painted tiles, stained glass, wrought iron gates, and the products of high-class printing, bookbinding, cutlery, needlework and cabinet-making.

Other works that have been held to fall under this definition include hand-knitted woollen sweaters, fabric with a highly textured surface including 3D elements, a range of pottery and items of dinnerware. The cases are, respectively, Bonz -v- Cooke [1994] 3 NZLR 216 (New Zealand), Coogi Australia -v- Hyrdrosport (1988) 157 ALR 247 (Australia), Walter Enterprises -v- Kearns (Zimbabwe) noted at [1990] 4 EntLR E-61, and Commissioner of Taxation -v- Murray (1990) 92 ALR 671 (Australia).

The word "building" is quite broadly defined by section 4(2), and includes "any fixed structure, and a part of a building or fixed structure".

The practical effect of the broad Freedom of Panorama provisions in the UK and in other countries with similar laws is that it is acceptable to upload to Commons not only photographs of public buildings and sculptures but also works of artistic craftsmanship which are on permanent public display in museums, galleries and exhibitions which are open to the public. According to Copinger and Skone James, the expression "open to the public" presumably extends the section to premises to which the public are admitted only on licence or on payment.[15] Again, this is broader than 'public place', which is the wording in many countries.

The Design and Artists Copyright Society and Artquest provide further information on freedom of panorama in the United Kingdom.[16][17]

Stamps

See also: Commons:Stamps

Red copyright.svg. British stamp designs published before 1st October 1969 were "Crown Copyright", which expired after 50 years and put the stamps in the public domain. (See Crown copyright.) This also applies to the stamps of the various territories of the British Empire prior to their independence.

In 1969, the Post Office was established as a non-Crown body. Since then, the copyright of new British stamps has been held by the Post Office or Royal Mail in its own right, so in general no stamp may be uploaded.

Threshold of originality

See also: Commons:Threshold of originality

OOjs UI icon check-constructive.svg OK for Lego bricks (see w:Interlego v Tyco Industries).

OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK for most logos. The level of originality required for copyright protection in the United Kingdom is very low.

In determining whether a work is protected, typographical copyright, publication rights and database rights need to be considered.

These images are eligible for copyright protection:

"[The defendants] submitted that the claimant can have no copyright in its EDGE logo because it is not original over the Franklin Gothic typeface. I do not accept this submission. The stretching of the font was combined with the distinctive slash and projection on the middle bar of the "E". What is required for artistic originality is the expenditure of more than negligible or trivial effort or relevant skill in the creation of the work: see Copinger and Skone James on Copyright 16th Ed at 3-130 and Ladbroke v. William Hill [1964] 1 WLR 273 at 287. The claimant's logo is original within this test."

— Mrs Justice Proudman, in: Future Publishing Ltd v The Edge Interactive Media Inc & Ors [2011] EWHC 1489 (Ch) at [10][19]

Digital copies of images

In 2014 (updated 2015) the UK's Intellectual Property Office issued an advice notice, which said, in part:[20]


"... according to established case law, the courts have said that copyright can only subsist in subject matter that is original in the sense that it is the author's own 'intellectual creation'. Given this criterion, it seems unlikely that what is merely a retouched, digitised image of an older work can be considered as 'original'. This is because there will generally be minimal scope for a creator to exercise free and creative choices if their aim is simply to make a faithful reproduction of an existing work."

Under section 6 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, this decision remains generally binding on UK courts.

Signatures

See also: Commons:When to use the PD-signature tag

OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK for a typical signature. The level of originality required for copyright protection in the United Kingdom is very low, and it is easily arguable that personal signatures are entitled to copyright protection. Under United Kingdom law, a signature may be protectable as a graphic work (a type of artistic work). Artistic works are protected regardless of artistic merit. There are various sources that point in that direction, including the following:

  • The practitioners' text Copinger and Skone James on Copyright mentions, at para. 2-23, an unreported decision that a signature combined with a (apparently copyrighted) shield device can be accorded artistic copyright.
  • Professor Charles Oppenheim of de Montfort University: "graphic works, photographs, sculptures and collages are protected regardless of artistic merit. Your signature is an artistic work, as you always suspected" See presentation of Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).
  • Sallie Spilsbury, Media Law, 2000, p. 439: An individual's signature may be protected under law as an artistic work. If so, the unauthorised reproduction of the signature will infringe copyright. The name itself will not be protected by copyright; it is the appearance of the signature which is protected.
  • Alan Story LLM, in "Owning Diana: From People's Princess to Private Property" accepts it is that possible ("though debatable") that there may be copyright in Diana's signature as an original artistic work. This is of interest, in that Story accepts this even though he is writing from an anti-protectionist angle.
  • The E. Chambré Hardman Archive Copyright Clinic page states that "Somebody’s signature is also thought of as an artistic work, rather than a literary work."

Unless further legal commentary or caselaw to the contrary becomes available, the UK position is that typical personal signatures are arguably entitled to protection under local law, and generally UK signatures should be deleted under the precautionary principle. However, if the signature is extremely simple (eg a scribbled line or two), it will not be copyright even in the UK.

Computer-generated works

Unlike most countries, the United Kingdom provides a special limited term of copyright protection for computer-generated works of 50 years from creation, with the author being "the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken".[1]

See also

Citations

  1. a b United Kingdom Copyright and Related Rights (Neighboring Rights). WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization (2018). Retrieved on 2018-11-12.
  2. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (Chapter 48, incorporating amendments up to the Digital Economy Act 2017). United Kingdom (2017). Retrieved on 2018-11-11.
  3. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (current). legislation.gov.uk. National Archives. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  4. Tim Padfield. Duration of Crown Copyright: Artistic Works. Copyright for Archivists. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  5. OS OpenData acknowledgements. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  6. a b Open Government Licence. National Archives. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  7. Non-Commercial Government Licence. Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX). Retrieved on 2021-05-05.
  8. Tim Padfield. DURATION OF COPYRIGHT - Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Copyright for Archivists. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  9. Tullo, Carol. Guidance - Copyright in Typographical Arrangement. The National Archives (United Kingdom). Retrieved on 10 March 2018.
  10. DACS - Knowledge Base - Factsheets - Commissioned works. DACS. Retrieved on 2021-06-18.
  11. Using images of banknotes. Bank of England. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  12. Advertising Guidelines. Royal Mint. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  13. a b Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  14. Copinger and Skone James on Copyright (18th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2021) vol 1, para 3-155.
  15. Copinger and Skone James on Copyright (18th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2021) vol 1, para 9-289.
  16. Factsheet: Sculpture and Works of Artistic Craftmanship on Public Display. Design and Artists Copyright Society. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  17. Advertising and marketing art: Copyright confusion. Artquest.
  18. Maurizio Borghi (2 August 2011). UK: Future v. Edge (High Court Chancery Division), 13 june 2011. Kluwer Copyright Blog. Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  19. Future Publishing Ltd v The Edge Interactive Media Inc & Ors [2011] EWHC 1489 (Ch) (13 June 2011). Retrieved on 2019-03-29.
  20. Copyright notice: digital images, photographs and the internet. Intellectual Property Office (4 January 2021). Retrieved on 30 January 2022.
Caution: The above description may be inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date, so must be treated with caution. Before you upload a file to Wikimedia Commons you should ensure it may be used freely. See also: Commons:General disclaimer