Copyright has time limits placed upon it. Databases have specific rights that are different to other material. Copyright law includes moral rights and publication rights.

Copyright duration

The duration of copyright depends on the type of work. The table below is highly simplified.

Type of work Copyright duration
Literary and artistic works 70 years from the end of the year of the death of creator
Sound recordings 50 years from date of creation
Typographical arrangements 25 years from date of publication
Crown Copyright 50 years from date of publication or 125 years from date of creation

Rights in databases are treated differently.

Database right

If information is structured in a database, the structure acquires a database right, alongside the copyright in the content of the database. Legally, a database is a collection of independent works arranged in a systematic or methodical way.

A database may be protected by both copyright and database right. For database right to apply, the database must be the result of substantial intellectual investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the content. The database right is an automatic right and protects databases against the unauthorised extraction and re-use of the contents.

Database right are protected for 15 years from the date of creation or publication. For some complex databases the structure itself can be categorised as a literary work (even if its contents are of a visual nature) and attract 70 years' copyright similar to other literary material.

Moral rights

Besides copyright, the creator of a work also holds moral rights, which cannot be transferred. Moral rights give the creator the right to be identified as the author of a work. This right must be asserted by the author in writing. If, for example, you use data created by someone else who has asserted the moral right to be identified as the author, you must identify this person within your own work. This is usually taken to be scholarly good practice but can be enforced legally.

Moral rights typically last the same length of time as copyright. Unlike copyright they cannot be sold to another party but can be waived by the author. They can also be bequeathed upon an author's death.

Publication right

Publication right offers rights equivalent to copyright to a person who publishes previously unpublished material that has already fallen out of copyright. This right rewards the creative effort employed in editing another research work. Creating and publishing a database based on unpublished historical source material which is not in copyright will give the creator a publication right.