The Lifespan for Copyright of Audiovisual Works

European Audiovisual Observatory,
16 February 2012, France


Copyright is extremely important in the film and television sector. It is the legal basis for financial compensation for all creative work that goes into audiovisual productions and therefore for claims for remuneration for such contributions. Most claims continue after the death of the holders of such copyright and related rights and can be inherited. However, in contrast to tangible goods, intellectual property rights expire after a certain period of time, when audiovisual works enter the public domain and can be used by anyone without the need for a licence, including online.

Determining the Term of Protection for Films: When Does a Film Fall into the Public Domain in Europe?

Terms of protection were one of the first aspects of copyright and related rights to be harmonised at European level, leaving in principle no room for national deviations from the European norm. The principle is simple and widely known: the term of protection is 70 years after the death of the author. However, when calculating the term of protection for an actual work, the proverbial devil lies in some complex regulatory details, some important examples of which are mentioned below.