August 31, 2016
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 changed in July 2016, reviving copyright protection in artistic works which had previously had their copyright protection cut short to a period of 25 years as a result of industrial manufacturing.
If the original design qualifies as an artistic work (details below), then the length of copyright is significantly extended from 25 years to 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator (not the owner) dies. This applies to both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.
The change brings copyright protection in many works back to life, which is particularly good news for the copyright owners of furniture and jewellery designs, where third parties have created or sold replicas and imitations of their work.
Copycats have been given a grace period of 6 months to allow for the sell off or destruction of any existing copies. The important date is 28 January 2017. Until this date:
After 28 January 2017, copycat businesses offering cheaper alternatives of artistic works, which take business away from the original designer and damage the value of an artistic work, are no longer legitimate without proper licensing in place. If copycat businesses continue to trade without an authorised licence, rights owners can pursue them for copyright infringement. A party will not be a breach of copyright by simply possessing a work but infringement may occur if done so in the course of business.
What is an ‘Artistic Work’?
The change will only have an effect on industrially manufactured artistic works which would otherwise have been protected by copyright.
An artistic work will be:
The last point is problematic in practice. There is no statutory definition of “a work of artistic craftsmanship” and there is very little authoritative guidance on which works will be deemed artistic enough to benefit from copyright protection.
The UK Intellectual Property Office has issued guidance, which is summarised below:
If the above change affects you Briffa will be able to advise the best course of action. Contact email@example.com or 0207 288 6003 to discuss your available options.
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