What material (film, music, photography, literature etc) do I not need permission to use?

Copyright lasts for the whole life of the creator of the work plus 70 years, passing on their death to their estate or heirs, so a huge amount of material is covered by this legislation, and virtually all film.  It is illegal to use copyright protected material without the (preferably written) permission of the owner.

Permanently publicly sited outdoor sculptures and buildings, under UK law, can be reproduced two-dimensionally, even be filmed or broadcast / transmitted, without the copyright owner’s consent; and such reproductions can also be used commercially without consent.

The issue of whether or not new photographic images of an older two-dimensional image can acquire copyright protection, on the basis that it is not a copy but an original work, has yet to be decided by the UK courts; however the US courts have decided the issue.

For more information, watch this film from our ArtlawTV series on Ben White and Eileen Simpson’s Open Music Archive project, which collects and distributes music which is no longer protected by copyright.



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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.