Commons:Copyright rules by territory/Iceland

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This page provides an overview of copyright rules of Iceland relevant to uploading works into Wikimedia Commons. Note that any work originating in Iceland must be in the public domain, or available under a free license, in both Iceland and the United States before it can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. If there is any doubt about the copyright status of a work from Iceland, refer to the relevant laws for clarification.

Governing laws

Iceland has been a member of the Berne Convention since 7 September 1947 and the World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995.[1]

As of 2018 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations, listed Copyright Act (Act No. 73/1972 of May 29, 1972, as amended up to Act No. 90/2018 of June 27, 2018) as the main copyright law enacted by the legislature of Iceland.[1] WIPO holds the text of this law in Icelandic with an automated translation tool, in their WIPO Lex database.[2] The Patent Office holds an English-language translation up to 2010.[3]

General rules

As of 2018 the rules were:

  • Copyright lasts until 70 years have elapsed from the start of the year after the author's death.[73/1972-2018 Art.43]
  • For works of joint authorship, copyright lasts until 70 years have elapsed from the last surviving author's death.[73/1972-2018 Art.43]
  • Copyright for musical compositions with words, where the words and music were written specifically for the work, lasts for 70 years from the start of the year after the death of the last survivor of the lyricist and the composer.[73/1972-2018 Art.43]
  • Copyright for cinematographic works lasts until 70 years from the start of the year after the death of the last survivor of the principal director, writers, including the dialogues, composers of the music composed especially for use in the cinematographic works.[73/1972-2018 Art.43]
  • Copyright in an anonymous work expires 70 years after the end of the year in which it was presented. However, if the author becomes known within that period, Article 43 applies.[73/1972-2018 Art.44]
  • If an anonymous work is not presented, the copyright in it expires 70 years after the end of the year in which it was created.[73/1972-2018 Art.44]
  • When a work has not been publicly presented within the period of protection mentioned in Article 43 or 44, the person who first presents the work after the period of protection may exercise a right to commercial exploitation of the work equivalent to that enjoyed by the author for 25 years from the end of the year of the presentation.[73/1972-2018 Art.44a]
  • A performer's right in a performance expires 50 years from the end of the year in which the performance occurred, or, if a recording of the performance has been distributed to the public, 50 years from the end of the year in which the recording was first distributed.[73/1972-2018 Art.45]
  • Audio and video recordings may not be reproduced or publicly distributed without the producer's consent unless 50 years from the end of the year in which the original recording was made, or, if a recording has been distributed to the public, 50 years from the end of the year in which the recording was first distributed.[73/1972-2018 Art.46]
  • The copyright in a photograph that is not an artistic work expires 50 years after the end of the year in which it was taken.[73/1972-2018 Art.49]

Government works

  • Acts, regulations, administrative provisions, court rulings and similar official documents, as well as official translation of such documents, are not copyrighted.[73/1972-2018 Art.9]
  • In addition, unless prohibited by court order, it is permissible to print, make an audio recording, or otherwise copy and present proceedings of public meetings of official representatives and documents publicly submitted during such meetings which concern such representatives, and "debates on questions concerning the public good which take place at gatherings to which the public has access or are broadcast".[73/1972-2018 Art.22]



See also: Commons:Currency

Coins designed after December 31, 1951 (current year minus 71 years)

OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK Copyrights for coins designed after December 31, 1951 are held by the Central Bank of Iceland.

Coins designed before January 1, 1952 (current year minus 70 years)

OOjs UI icon check-constructive.svg OK Iceland Currency becomes public domain because the Icelandic Copyright law (§49) specifies that images considered to be "works of art" become public domain 70 years after creation. Please use {{Icelandic currency}} for currency designed before January 1, 1952.

De minimis

See also: Commons:De minimis

An unofficial translation of Article 10a of the Icelandic copyright act reads:

  • Authors’ exclusive rights under Article 3 (cf. Article 2), shall not apply to the making of reproductions (copies) that are transient or incidental...[73/1972-2018 Art.10a(1)]

Copyright tags

See also: Commons:Copyright tags

Freedom of panorama

See also: Commons:Freedom of panorama

OOjs UI icon close-ltr-destructive.svg Not OK {{NoFoP-Iceland}}

In regard to the freedom of panorama, the unofficial translation of Article 16 reads:

  • Photographs may be taken and presented of buildings, as well as works of art, which have been situated permanently out-of-doors in a public location. Should a building, which enjoys protection under the rules concerning works of architecture, or a work of art as previously referred to, comprise the principal motif in a photograph which is exploited for marketing purposes, the author shall be entitled to remuneration, unless the pictures are intended for use by a newspaper or in television broadcasting."[73/1972-2018 Art.16]

In essence, Icelandic "freedom of panorama" images are free only for non-commercial uses. Overview photos in which no single copyrighted work is the main subject of the image should be fine.

Threshold for artistic work in photography

Article 1, subsection 2, of the copyright act includes "photographic art" as one of the art forms that merit protection as works of art, meaning that the work is copyrighted for 70 years beyond the death of the author. Photographic work that does not meet the threshold of being considered artistic work is however protected according to article 49 which grants the creator of non-artistic photographs exclusive rights to reproduction for 50 years from the date of publication. It is clear from explanatory supplement (pdf) that accompanied the bill that became the Copyright Act of 1972 that most photography was not intended to be protected as "artistic work" and that regular phography done by photographers as tradesmen would not qualify.

Two known court cases in Iceland have grappled with the distinction between artistic and non-artistic photography. In Supreme Court case no 178/2013, it was found that a landscape photograph from Jökulsárlón that had been used for commercial purposes without permission from the photographer did constitute enough original and independent thought from the photographer to be counted as "artistic work". This was supported by the technical complexity of the photograph that had been achieved with particular skills on part of the photographer. The ruling also states that (in unofficial translation): "For a work to enjoy this protection [as "artistic work"] it needs to result from the mental creativity of the author, meaning that it demonstrates a particular level of originilaty and uniqueness. Photographs will generally not be defined as artistic work in this sense but photographs that do not demonstrate this level of artistic creativity are still protected to a degree according to article 49 of the Copyright Act."

In the ruling of the Reykjavík District Court in case E-6726/2008 it was found that two photographs that a magazine published without permission from the photographers did not demonstrate the level of creativity and originality that would categorize them as "artistic work". It was however accepted in this case that article 49 prtoections applied to the photographs. One of the photographs in this case was a portrait of the photographer himself that had been taken with a timer and a tripod in his own studio, the other was a candid shot of a woman.

From the above court cases and the explanatory supplement with the original bill of the Copyright Act it is clear that photographs need to pass a fairly high bar to be considered "artistic work" and that most photographs published in Iceland fall under article 49, and thus become public domain 50 years after publication.

See also


  1. a b Iceland Copyright and Related Rights (Neighboring Rights). WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization (2018). Retrieved on 2018-11-11.
  2. Copyright Act (Act No. 73/1972 of May 29, 1972, as amended up to Act No. 90/2018 of June 27, 2018) (in Icelandic). Iceland (2011). Retrieved on 2018-11-11.
  3. The Copyright Act No. 73, of 29 May 1972, as amended by ... Act No. 93 of 21 of April 2010 (in English). Einkaleyfastofan (Patents Office). Retrieved on 2019-03-26.
Caution: The above description may be inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date, so must be treated with caution. Before you upload a file to Wikimedia Commons you should ensure it may be used freely. See also: Commons:General disclaimer