Oct 30, 2015

Government Consultation on Extension of Copyright for Industrially Manufactured Works

Section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 limits the length duration of copyright protection for industrially applied artistic works – those created by industrial process in the UK or elsewhere - to 25 years from when the article was first marketed. Earlier in 2015, the Government actioned the repeal of section 52, to take effect in 2020. These plans were met with jubilation by campaigners particularly in the furniture industry which, alongside the jewelry and lighting industries as further examples, is typically restricted by the provisions of section 52. This was excellent news for such industries, extending the copyright protection of many of their works to life-plus-70 (of the author), the same as most other copyright works.

 

However, the means by which the Government had proposed to repeal section 52 - the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No.8 and Saving Provisions Order 2015) – was itself repealed earlier in 2015 after its compatibility with EU Law was challenged. This may have provoked concerns as to whether section 52 would be changed at all though the Government has launched a consultation – live until 9 December 2015 – on proposed transitional arrangements for its repeal.

 

The consultation and likely repeal of section 52 is obviously good news for designers, significantly extending protection offered to industrially manufactured artistic works. However, it seems that the delays and incompatibility of the means by which section 52 was to be repealed are due to a lack of clarity. It is likely that the Government will provide non-statutory guidance on the impact of any changes in order to guide businesses on both sides of this issue ((1) businesses currently exploiting out-of-copyright industrially applied artistic works of other businesses and (2) businesses that will seek to sue others who were not previously infringing due to the likely increase in copyright protection of their works). Only time will tell whether a smooth transition to the change in law can be achieved, but the Government consultation is open for submissions from stakeholders with an interest.

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