Deadline for new copyright law transition period is approaching

On 28 July 2016 UK copyright law changed; the change in the law extends the term of copyright protection for industrially applied designs (i.e. artistic works where 50 or more copies are produced) from 25 years to the lifetime of the artist or designer plus 70 years after their death. This term is now in-line with other artistic works.

Previously, mass-produced artistic works lost copyright protection in the UK after 25 years, meaning they could then be reproduced without the permission of the designer and without having to pay a licence fee. After the change in the law, industrially applied designs whose copyright protection had previously expired, now have their protection restored, leaving some businesses facing severe consequences. For example, an entirely legitimate business selling replica iconic furniture might find that many of its products (which it was previously perfectly entitled to sell, the copyright having long expired) suddenly infringe copyright.

What products are affected?

The changes to UK copyright law only affects products that are protectable by copyright. This includes sculptures, paintings and drawings as well as works of “artistic craftsmanship”. It can be difficult to determine whether a particular item, for example a piece of replica furniture, is covered by the change in the law or not. It isn’t enough that an item looks attractive. Generally, an item is only a work of “artistic craftsmanship” if: the creator had a conscious intention to produce a work of art; the product has a real artistic quality; the product exhibits a sufficient degree of craftsmanship and artistry. This means that designs that were created with the intention to be purely functional or utilitarian, such as the Anglepoise® Lamp, are not likely to be covered by the changes regardless of how iconic the design has become, whilst less-iconic designs that were produced as a work of art and show a high degree of craftsmanship will be. For example, many wrought iron gates and stained glass windows will be covered.

Transitional provision

There are currently transitional provisions in place for companies whose products are affected by the change, allowing them to sell off existing stock of items that have now had their copyright protection restored. The end of the six month transition period is fast approaching and closes on 28 January 2017! After this time, anyone selling those products without permission or without the relevant licence, will be infringing copyright laws and may be sued.

Are you affected by the new copyright law?

Whether you are a business that produces industrially applied designs and are worried about copyright infringement, or an artist or designer looking to enforce your re-instated copyright protection, talk to one of Serjeants’ experienced attorneys. We are experts in both enforcing and defending copyright law and we’d be pleased to chat through your options with you. Call 0116 233 2626 or drop us an email.

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