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Calculating the copyright term for a given work can be complicated because copyright legislation changes over time. One important change came into effect on 1 January 2005 . The significance of this change is described below.

As of 1 January 2019 copyright terms apply to unpublished works based on whether or not they have been made public ( before or after that date).

For detailed information refer to the Department of Communications and the Arts' copyright duration fact sheets or the Australian Copyright Council's copyright duration information.

Literary, dramatic and musical works

  • Under current law, for literary, dramatic and musical works that were published during the lifetime of the author, copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died.

Sound records and film

  • For published sound recordings and films made public from 1 Jan 1955 to before 1 Jan 2019, the duration of copyright is 70 years from the end of the year in which the recording or film was first published.

Artistic works

  • For artistic works, copyright lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years, and publication status is irrelevant.

Change to the copyright term in 2005

The 70-year copyright terms above came into effect on 1 January 2005 when the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) amendments were made to the Act. The previous terms were generally 50 years and the 2005 changes were not applied retrospectively or to government publications.

How to calculate the copyright status of older published works

To calculate the copyright status of older published works, find out if the period of copyright protection had expired by 1 January 2005.

For example, if an author died prior to 1 January 1955, works published during his or her lifetime are now out of copyright because the old 50 year period of copyright protection had elapsed by 1 January 2005.

Once copyright expires, there are no longer any copyright-related restrictions on its copying or re-use. This is sometimes referred to as 'being in the public domain'.

That said, the State Library may restrict certain uses of public domain materials for other reasons, such as donor restrictions, Indigenous cultural concerns or fragility.