Foreign Copyright Laws
Tree-view chart on Foreign Copyright Law

This page is a supplement to the main illustrations page on Foreign Copyright at  This page provides specific information on the copyright laws of twenty countries, in an easy-to-navigate table.  As with all of the pages on this web site concerning copyright of non-U.S. works, a basic principle is: If the work was created in, copyrighted in, first published in — or is the work of a citizen of — a nation other than the United States, the work may be considered a foreign work for purposes of copyright.  If the user is certain that the work is considered an American work for U.S. copyright purposes, this section can be skipped.  (Copyright Transfers illustrations page)

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in this section:
Look at how specific countries treat
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as approached by the laws of different countries


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International considerations:
As shown on a table elsewhere in the foreign copyright section of this web site, most countries are parties to international treaties whereby they respect the copyrights of the other signatory countries. Within their own copyright laws, several countries have a provision stating that a copyrighted terminated (or expired) in the source country won’t be recognized in this country, regardless of any provisions permitting longer duration under the laws of the non-source country. Just as the United States has provisions in its 104A(h)(6)(D) precluding source-country copyright from applying where the work was “published in the United States during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country”, so too do some other countries have rules stating that publication elsewhere in the 30 days prior to publication in that country is considered simultaneous with the non-source country and thus a determinant of which country’s law applies. Some countries (and sections) where this apply are Ireland (184.(2)), Netherlands (47, 42), Russia (5.2), and the United Kingdom (15(A)).

CITATIONS TO FOREIGN-RULES TABLE: The following table indicates the specific version of each country’s copyright law consulted for the above table; the specific passage(s) containing the rule(s) involved is indicated in small italics in the above table at the end of most summary statements.

Where the second column in the table below indicates “WIPO,” the laws of this country are among those of 120 countries [this number as of February 2007] accessible online from the World Intellectual Property Organization at

Country Source Specific Legislation
Australia Copyright Act 1968, Act No. 63 of 1968 as amended, compilation prepared 26 July 2007
Canada Copyright Act ( R.S. 1985, c. C-42 ), Updated to April 30, 2004
Czech Republic WIPO CZ029EN Copyright, Act, 07/04/2000, No. 121, Law No. 121/2000 Coll. of 7 April 2000
France Intellectual Property Code (Legislative Part), Mise a Jour Legifrance 15/06/03, Dernier texte modificateur Loi 2003-706 du 01/08/03 (JO 02/08/03)
Germany WIPO DE080EN Copyright, Law (Consolidation), 09/09/1965 (16/07/1998); Law on Copyright and Neighboring Rights (Text of September 9, 1965, as last amended by the Law of July 16, 1998)
Hong Kong WIPO HK001EN Copyright, Ordinance (Cap. 528 Consolidation), 27/06/1997 (1999), No. 92 (No. 95)
India Indian Copyright Act, 1957 (amended)
Ireland Number 28 of 2000, Copyright and Related Rights Act
Italy WIPO IT112EN Copyright, Law (Consolidation), 22/04/1941 (02/02/2001), No. 633 (No. 95), Law No. 633 of April 22, 1941, Protection of Copyright and Rights Related to its Exercise (as last amended by Legislative Decree No. 95 of February 2, 2001)
Japan WIPO JP033EN Copyright, Law (Consolidation), 06/05/1970 (12/06/1998), No. 48 (No. 101)
Mexico WIPO MX003EN Copyright, Law (Consolidation), 05/12/1996 (19/05/1997), in English.  Also 1998 amendments translated from Spanish by computer software.
Netherlands WIPO NL001EN Copyright, Act (Consolidation), 23/09/1912 (27/10/1972)
New Zealand WIPO NZ015EN Copyright, Act (Consolidation), 1913 (15/12/1994), (No. 143), 1994
Poland WIPO PL010EN Copyright, Act, 04/02/1994, No. 83
Russia Law on Copyright and Related Rights (No. 5351-I of July 9, 1993 as amended July 20, 2004)
Slovak Republic WIPO Copyright Act, Act No. 383/1997 of 5th December 1997, as Changed and Amended by Act No. 234/2000 of 20th June 2000, Translation Version 1.2 (13. 9. 2001)
South Africa WIPO ZA002EN Copyright, Act (Consolidation), 20/06/1978 (1992), No. 98 (No. 125)
Spain WIPO ES070EN Copyright, Law (Consolidation), 12/04/1996 (06/03/1998), No. 1 (No. 5)
Sweden WIPO SE006EN Copyright, Act (Consolidation), 30/12/1960 (07/12/1995), No. 729 (No. 1274), Act on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works (Law No. 729, of December 30, 1960, as last amended by Law No. 1274, of December 7, 1995)
United Kingdom Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, amended through 31st December 2003.


Works made before current laws:
Hong Kong current law indicates that films, photographs and sound recordings made before December 12, 1972, are not covered by the current law (except that films are protected insofar as their dramatic content, if any), but may still be covered by a 1956 law. (Schedule 2, sections 7, 8 and 13)

New Zealand current law indicates that films, engravings, “literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work”, and unpublished works made before April 1, 1963, are not covered by the current law, although there are references to the 1913 law. (First Schedule, Transitional Provisions and Savings, 6, 12, 17-19, 40)

United Kingdom states that works which were under copyright before the 1988 law and which were entitled under that law to a later expiration date than under the new law, will continue under copyright until that later date. This schedule also discusses revived copyright for works which expired under the old law but which are entitled to longer copyright under the new law. (Schedule 1) (For more about “revived” U.K. copyrights, see the text and links elsewhere on the main page on foreign copyright and the supplemental page on United Kingdom copyright law.)

Additional notes
It’s pretty much universal that copyright laws state that where a work is published in separate volumes over the course of multiple years, each volume is considered to be copyrighted on the basis of the year that the particular volume was first published.

Work-for-hire provisions are in the laws of many countries.

In the information for cinema works, photo, sound works, etc., where a lifetime-plus timeframe is indicated, the country’s rules concerning joint authors, anonymous and pseudonymous authors, and posthumous publication also apply.

Rules for sound works refer only to works that are issued as sound media. As is the case in the United States, the soundtrack to a movie is considered to be part of the movie and not as a separate work under the laws of several countries which specifically address the subject.

Additional information on duration of copyright:
Under the laws of France, in calculating the expiration date for the works of an author who was a citizen of France, the following timespans are not counted: 8/2/1914 through 12/31/1918 and (if the work was under copyright as of 8/13/1941) 9/3/1939 through 1/1/1948. (Articles L123-8 and L123-9) Furthermore, where an author died for France, the copyright is entitled to an additional thirty years. (Article L123-10) Thus, an author who died in late 1914 (perhaps among the first casualties of WWI) could receive seventy years added upon death, an additional dozen (plus fractions) for the two World Wars, plus thirty more for his sacrifice in uniform. His copyrights won’t expire until at earliest 2027.

Russia gives an additional four years to authors who worked during or took part in the Great Patriotic War.

Where countries have a rule about using either the year the work was first created or made available, copyright that expires cannot be regained through publication. Thus, if a work is created and then covered by copyright for the specified maximum number of years without the work being published (or otherwise made available), the work falls into the public domain without hope of copyright being recovered even if publication occurs thereafter. However, if publication occurs while the work is protected by copyright as an unpublished work (even if publication occurs during the final year of coverage), the clock starts again upon publication. In this way, in a country with a rule of “publication through end of end and then plus 50 years (deadline: creation through end of year and then plus 50 years)” a work may not go out of copyright until 99 years after creation (49 years protection prior to publication plus 50 years following publication equals 99 years).  Where publication occurs only a few years following creation, the number of years of protection is reduced to just a few over fifty.

Where “publication” determines the beginning of a copyright term, it always means the initial publication date (said date as determined by the laws of the relevant country).  “Publication” can be taken in the broad sense; many countries treat “public disclosure” (such as exhibition, broadcast or performance) as equivalent to publication insofar as controls the start date of a copyright. See also the comments under “Film: start of copyright duration.”

Cinema works:
Japan has a rule (Article 54(2)) which removes copyright protection from the underlying work(s) upon expiration of the copyright in a movie, but only insofar as it relates to the exploitation of the movie. (The underlying work continues to enjoy any protection it is still entitled to in its other respects.)

Many countries use the term “cinematographic works” to refer to movies, thus drawing a distinct line between movies shown in theaters and video productions created specifically for television, often shown live. Other countries use the more inclusive term “audiovisual works,” which leaves room for such fringe categories as home movies shot on formats of film intended for amateurs, animated GIFs playable only on computers, and wedding videos. This table is not intended to answer how such non-theatrical formats are treated within the laws of the specific countries.

Under South Africa law, “‘cinematograph film’ means the fixation by any means whatsoever on film or any other material of a sequence of images capable, when used in conjunction with any mechanical, electronic or other device, of being seen as a moving picture and of reproduction and includes the sounds embodied in a sound-track associated with the film, but shall not include a computer program”. (Underscoring added)

Explanation concerning the “Film: start of copyright duration” row:
Just as the United States has followed two different policies as to whether to count against the duration of copyright on a film the period when the film is merely “performed” (exhibited) but not “published” (sold or rented)(This distinction was built into American copyright law before the 1976 revisions; see the section on this web site for limited publication of movies), so too do other countries currently have policies different from one another on this matter. These data cells indicate (in broad form) which policy is followed.

Readers are cautioned that some countries may have changed their laws on this matter prior to their current version.  (The U.S. did in 1976.)  Thus, in the past, the effective date of source-country copyright of a foreign movie may not have been the premiere date, even if a newer movie begins its copyright on that basis.  This table does not exhaustively reference earlier versions of each country’s laws; changes for a few countries are noted below.  Because a difference of date between premiere and publication could affect a calculation concerning thirty-day windows inclusive of American publication, readers should consult earlier versions of the law in a source country before assuming it to be legal to copy without authorization a film on the basis of U.S.C. §104A(h)(6)(D).

Further information concerning “Film Copyright Determined by”:
Canada has different durations for films depending on whether the owner is a corporation or a person, and whether it is a dramatic or not. See designations elsewhere in this table. (Canada, sec. 11.1) Where the individual is the determiner, Canada defines the “maker” in this imprecise manner: “the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the work are undertaken”.

Japan determines this by “those who, by taking charge of producing, directing, filming, art direction, etc., have contributed to the creation or that work as a whole,” excluding creators of underlying works (novels, pre-existing music, etc.). However, work-for-hire situations don’t count. (Sections 15 and 16)

New Zealand says that the “‘Director’, in relation to a copyright work that is a film, includes any person nominated by the director of the film to exercise the director’s rights” provided “[t]he nomination is made before the completion of the making of the film” and “[t]he person nominated makes a creative contribution to the making of the film”.

Anonymous and Pseudonymous works
Ireland and Japan have rules that where it is reasonable to assume that a work was created such a long time ago that it would not enjoy copyright on the basis of the author’s lifespan, there won’t be copyright based on publication date. (This prevents a centuries-old never-before-published work from securing copyright by surreptitiously claiming its author “anonymous” where the publisher knew revelation of the author’s identity would disclose that author having died too long ago to be entitled to copyright.)

Poland specifically makes the point that its current law does not apply to broadcasts which occurred 20 or more years prior to the current law going into effect May 23, 1994.

Particular editions
Where “N/A” is indicated, the country does not have specific provisions for this type of work.  Readers should presume that the standard rules for copyright duration apply, presuming that the edition qualifies on the basis of the country’s minimum qualifications for creativity, uniqueness, effort expended in the creation of the work, etc.
    Where a country allows copyright protection for a particular edition of a work, it covers typography, typographical arrangement, and other unique aspects of an edition of a work that might otherwise not be protected by copyright. Others wanting to issue an edition of the public domain text will have to do their own typesetting or copy from an older edition.

Moral Rights provisions
These generally cover such subjects as whether an author or creator is entitled to attribution and whether his consent is required for whether and how his work is to be published. Often, laws specifically state that these rights extend to dead authors, that use of their works must be done in such a way that it does not depreciate its value.


You’ve seen the data —
Now read passages from the law
and read what the courts decided.

Read Citations and Case Summaries on:
Foreign works

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