Copyright Expiry for Audio-Visual Works in Russia: When Footage Enters the Public Domain


In the Russian Federation, Part IV of the Civil Code, effective since January 1, 2008, governs copyright laws. The most relevant statute to audio-visual works copyright falls under Article 1281, defining an audio-visual work as something perceived through both sight and sound, like a film or television program.

Article 1281 stipulates that the authorship of an audio-visual work involves several key players: the director, the screenplay writer, the dialogue writer, and the composer of any music specifically created for that work, provided it features in the work. Collectively, these individuals hold co-authorship of the audio-visual work.

The main point is the duration of the copyright, which is covered by Article 1284.

As per this article, the copyright protection for audio-visual works lasts for the lifetime of the author and for 70 years after the author’s death.

When there are multiple authors, as is often the case with audio-visual works, the copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last surviving co-author.

Upon expiration of this term, the work enters the public domain, which means it can be used freely without obtaining permission or paying any licensing fees.

However, even after the copyright has expired, the right of authorship, the right to the author’s name, and the right to the inviolability of the work – often referred to as “moral rights” – are protected indefinitely.

It’s important to note that for works made for hire, where the audio-visual work is commissioned by a person or an entity, the person or entity is considered the copyright holder. However, the duration of copyright remains the same – the lifetime of the author(s) plus 70 years.

Also note that different rules can apply if the work was not published during the author’s lifetime. If an audio-visual work is first published within 30 years of the author’s death, the copyright expires 70 years after the date of first publication.

Therefore, for any use of an audio-visual work in Russia, it is essential to verify the dates of death of all co-authors or the date of first publication in order to determine whether or not the work has entered the public domain. Furthermore, even for works in the public domain, the moral rights of the authors must always be respected.

This overview only covers the basics of Russian copyright law as it relates to audio-visual works and is not a substitute for legal advice. For specific cases, consult with a professional with expertise in Russian intellectual property law.

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