Crown copyright

Crown copyright is defined under section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as works made by officers or servants of the Crown in the course of their duties.

Crown copyright covers material created by civil servants (PDF, 0.52MB), ministers and government departments and agencies (PDF, 0.19MB). This includes legislation, government codes of practice, social media content (PDF, 0.1MB), government reports, official press releases, academic articles (PDF, 0.21MB) and many public records. For clarification of the duration of copyright please see the flowcharts for Crown copyright and non-Crown copyright. The National Archives has also produced a Permanent Secretary's Guide to Copyright (PDF, 0.88MB).

Copyright can also come into Crown ownership by means of assignment or transfer of the copyright from the legal owner of the copyright to the Crown. Copyright in a work which has been assigned to the Crown lasts 70 years after the death of the person who created it.

The default licence for most Crown copyright and Crown database right information is the Open Government Licence.

Our role in managing Crown copyright

The Keeper, who is the Chief Executive Officer of The National Archives, manages Crown copyright and Crown database rights under Letters Patent. It is the Keeper who decides whether Crown copyright material can be made available on terms other than the Open Government Licence.

Copyright assignments

Copyright ownership can be transferred by written assignment. In certain exceptional circumstances Crown copyright may be assigned away from the Crown.

Legacy licensing

The National Archives has central responsibility for the management of the Crown’s copyright and database rights. Most licensing is under the non-transactional Open Government Licence (OGL).

Delegations of Authority

Delegations of Authority are granted by the Keeper to enable government departments or agencies to licence the re-use of Crown copyright material they produce outside the terms of the Open Government Licence.

UK Crown bodies

The National Archives maintains a list of public bodies which have Crown status. Material produced by these bodies is subject to Crown copyright.