Template talk:PD-UK-unknown

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Legal basis[edit]

The legal basis for this template can be found at sections 9(4)&(5) and 12(3)&(4) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended by The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performance Regulations 1995, SI 1995/3297. There are some complex transitional provisions which are not reflected in the tag, but the simple rules listed there will almost always be safe.

Contrary to the wording used in some other EU states, UK national law does not rely on a definition of the term 'anonymous work'. Instead, s9(4) defines a work of 'unknown authorship' to be a work where the identity of the author is unknown or, in the case of a work of joint authorship, where the identity of none of the authors is known.

By s9(5), "the identity of an author shall be regarded as unknown if it is not possible for a person to ascertain his identity by reasonable enquiry; but if his identity is once known it shall not subsequently be regarded as unknown".

Then s12(3), as amended in 1995, specifies that for a work of unknown authorship, copyright expires:

(a) at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
(b) if during that period the work is made available to the public, at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first so made available.

s12(4) then says that the normal 70 pma rule applies if the identity of the author becomes known before the expiry dates given above.

s57(1) provides that any residual copyright there may be cannot be infringed if reasonable enquiries have failed to acertain the identity of the author and that it is reasonable to assume he/she died more than 70 years ago.

It is this complexity of UK national law that makes it inappropriate to use the normal Anonymous-Work template. As is currently being discussed here, that template is currently wrong for a number of countries, including the UK and US, and we actually need several country-specific tags like this one. --MichaelMaggs 15:01, 21 February 2007 (UTC)


Shouldn't the first two bullets be merged? They seem pretty redundant to me; whether or not a photograph is publicly available prior to so-and-so date does not really affect whether or not it could be public domain. :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 00:17, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

The wording is correct. Under UK law the date on which a photo of unknown authorship was publicly made available can indeed affect whether copyright continues to subsist or not. UK law is quite different from US law in this respect. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 21:57, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but the first two points appear to be unnecessarily wordy and can easily be merged, preferably into a single line like "Any photograph before 1947; or" instead of having separation as it does currently. :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 02:28, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
No, they can't, because what you are suggesting isn't true. If a photo was taken in 1925 but was first published, say, in the UK in 1965, the copyright term starts in 1965. The two points are different, and are worded perfectly clearly. Pyrope (talk) 03:44, 17 May 2011 (UTC)


I cannot find any difference in UK law between engravings and photographs, so I don't think this should allow the one but not the other.

Also, the special treatment of engravings, etc., only applies where the author is known, but there isn't a mechanism for tagging engravings, so it looks like unknown author engravings from before 70 years ago are forbidden by Wikimedia, but allowed by UK law.

-- David Woolley (talk) 14:50, 7 June 2014 (UTC)

I don't know exactly what the rules are or whether this template is correct, but the rules are complex.
Standard EU rules for anonymous authors: Copyright expires 70 years after publication. If not published within 70 years from creation, the copyright expires 70 years after publication.
UK law uses that rule, but denotes such authors as "unknown" instead. The term "anonymous" is defined in an EU directive, and the word "unknown" is defined using different words in the w:Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. I don't know what happens if there is a discrepancy between the words "anonymous" and "unknown", as the United Kingdom is required to follow EU law.
Article 10 (1) of the w:Copyright Duration Directive tells that the directive doesn't have the effect that any copyright terms are shortened. Therefore, the UK is allowed to keep longer terms for pre-existing works, and is doing this with at least some works.
Go to [1] and search for the text "Duration of copyright in existing works". Below those words, you will find a section which tells that you should sometimes use the copyright terms in the w:Copyright Act 1956 instead. As far as I have understood, the Copyright Act 1956 makes references to the w:Copyright Act 1911, so you may have to take a look at that copyright act too.
In the same document, go down to the section entitled "Perpetual copyright under the Copyright Act 1775". Here you can see that you sometimes need to consult the term in the Copyright Act 1775 in order to correctly determine the copyright term of some works. I don't know whether you need to consult more copyright acts than the ones from 1775, 1911, 1956 and 1988 in order to find the correct UK terms for all different kinds of works.
The template links to this document which lists various terms for various different situations. Note that making a work available to the public isn't the same thing as publishing it. I assume that the person who made the PDF file has waded through all of the different copyright acts. The PDF file makes references to both photographs and engravings. I think that there are some errors in the PDF file. For example, the effect of the Copyright Act 1775 is not specified. --Stefan4 (talk) 23:54, 8 June 2014 (UTC)