June 20, 2016

A Longer Life – Extended Duration for Copyright in Certain Artistic Works

Back in February 2015, I reported on the Government’s intention to repeal Section 52 Copyright Designs & Patents Act (“the Act”); something that Royds  (as Members of the Intellectual Property Lawyer’s Association) had been lobbying for.  The new law takes effect on 28 July 2016, with a transition period in force until 28 January 2017.

A Recap

Section 52 of the Act discriminated against certain artistic works because it provides that the duration of copyright in those artistic works that have been commercially exploited, will last for a period of 25 years from the year the work was first marketed.  Work is commercially exploited if more than 50 copies are industrially manufactured.  For most other works, the period of the copyright is the life of the maker, plus another 70 years.

Effect of the Repeal

From 28 July 2016, those artistic works that have been industrially manufactured, will continue to enjoy copyright protection long after 25 years, and even after the author’s (or creator’s) death.  This is of significant importance to designers such as jewellers and fashion designers creating and manufacturing qualifying goods.

Artistic Works

The Act usefully provides a definition of what are artistic works;

  • A graphic work, photograph, sculpture or collage, irrespective of artistic quality;
  • a work of architecture being a building or a model for a building, or
  • a work of artistic craftsmanship.

A work of artistic craftsmanship could be any 3 dimensional article provided it is artistic (very low threshold since what is one man’s art, is another man’s junk!), and is created by a skilled craftsman.  I have often argued that bespoke handcrafted (or sculptured) items of jewellery are works of artistic craftsmanship.  For another example, see patchwork quilt covers, Vermaat & Another –v- Boncrest Limited [Royds acted for Claimant].

The Transition

There will be a transition period so that from 29 July 2016 new copies of artistic works which have had their copyright protection reinstated, can nevertheless be made or imported into the UK, with some exceptions.  The transition period ends on 28 January 2017.  From that date, any copies of an artistic work which previously did not infringe copyright by reason of Section 52, will now do so and so anyone making or importing, selling or offering for sale such copies, will be doing so unlawfully.  Anybody with stock or such products should destroy them unless they are authorised to sell them by the copyright owner, and that will usually involve entering into a Licence.

Share on: