While large portions of the archival material available through our Reading Room and website are out of copyright, some are still covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (“copyright law”). Please do not assume that archival material is out of copyright because it appears here or on our website – we may have obtained special permission to publish it.  


If you believe that an item or items on this site are breach of copyright laws, contain sensitive personal data, or include content that may be regarded as obscene or defamatory, please contact us at and we will review the item for takedown, removing it from the site during the review if it lasts more than a day.

Copyright law can be complicated to navigate so if you are unsure about whether archive material (an item, file, volume, etc.) is still in copyright, please consult The National Archives’ definitive flowcharts (in Sections 9-10 Copyright and related rights ( or contact the Archives Centre for guidance.

What copyright protects

Copyright protects a number of categories of works:

  • Literary works including reports, letters, diaries, accounts, databases, poems, and novels. 
  • Artistic works including maps, drawings, photographs, paintings, medals, and sculptures. 
  • Dramatic and musical works including plays, music, and choreography. 
  • Films including videos and DVDs. 
  • Sound recordings. 

Copyright restrictions 

Under copyright law, the owner has the right to restrict the use of the work. Restrictions include limits on:

  • copying, whether manually (transcript) or digitally (photocopy or scan)
  • publishing (hardcopy or online)
  • performance, whether performing a play, reading a speech, or inclusion in an exhibition
  • communication to the public
  • adaptation

There are exceptions to the above. You may:

  • use an ‘insubstantial part’ of a work. ‘Insubstantial’ is not defined and must be measured not only in terms of quantity (e.g. 5% of the whole) but also whether you’re using an important part of the whole.
  • use the work under ‘fair dealing’. The use must be fair to the copyright owner (i.e. not using too much or damage commercial interests), must acknowledge the author and the title of the work. In addition, you can only use fair dealing for private study, non-commercial research, criticism/review, or in news reporting.

Archives may additionally supply copies to individuals for the purposes of private study or non-commercial research. To obtain copies of archival material from this site please contact the Archives Centre.

Copyright owners

The initial or first owner(s) of copyright can include:

  • the author (the individual who created the work)
  • the employer, if the work was created by an employee in the course of their employment
  • the individual who commissioned and paid for an engraving, portrait, or photograph commissioned before 1 August 1989
  • the owner of the negative of photographs taken between 1 July 1912 and 31 July 1989
  • the producer and director of a film
  • the producer of a sound recording
  • the Houses of Parliament
  • the Crown. 

The present owner of the copyright is often the direct descendant(s) or successor(s) of the first owner. Copyright can, however, be assigned or bequeathed to others such as the Churchill Archives Centre. Please contact the Archives Centre for assistance in clearing copyright.

Crown Copyright

Some archival material is covered by Crown copyright. Crown copyright applies to a work if it was:

  • created or published on or before 1 June 1957 by the Crown
  • created or first published between 1 June 1957 and 31 July 1989 by the Crown
  • created on or after 1 August 1989 by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of their duties.

Examples of Crown copyright in Churchill Archives Centre holdings include material created by:

  • civil servants, diplomats, colonial officials, and members of the armed forces writing in an official capacity, and 
  • ministers of the Crown when acting as such (but not when acting as constituency MPs or party members). 

The standard duration of Crown copyright is 50 years after the year of publication or 125 years after creation for some unpublished material. Please use the National Archives’ flowchart to assist in establishing if an archive is still covered by Crown copyright (in Section 10 Copyright and related rights ( 

Archives covered by Crown copyright may be used with only a few exemptions and conditions under the Open Government Licence. For further details, please see the Open Government License

Parliamentary copyright 

Parliamentary copyright applies to unpublished works (literary, dramatic, musical or artistic) created by either House of Parliament and published after 1 August 1989.  

Examples of Parliamentary copyright in Churchill Archives Centre holdings include proceedings, Hansard, and bills. 

The standard duration of Parliamentary copyright is 50 years from the end of the year in which the work was made. 

Non-Crown copyright 

Non-Crown copyright applies to all works not covered by Crown copyright or Parliamentary copyright. This is likely to apply to many personal archives. 

Examples of non-Crown copyright in Churchill Archives Centre holdings include letters, diaries, poems, photographs, press cuttings, and audio-visual material. 

The standard duration of non-Crown copyright is 70 years from the end of the year following the death of the author. However, there are a large number of variations depending on format, publication/availability, and original publication date. Please refer to The National Archives’ flowchart (in Section 9 Copyright and related rights ( to assist in establishing if archival material is still in copyright.