Media Briefing Note: Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill Increases Duration of Copyright Protection

25 APRIL 2013 - The Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill, which is set to be given Royal Assent soon, is set to have a dramatic impact for the world of designers, manufacturers, publishers and museums as it increases the duration of copyright protection for certain artistic works from 25 years to the authors full life plus 70 years.

Previously under UK copyright law, designs could be freely reproduced 25 years after being created. After a period of 25 years from the date when the articles were first marketed, the copyright owner essentially loses their right to prevent the production of copy-cat articles, although they may still enforce their copyright in certain forms of reproduction (e.g. within a film).
The new Bill, which will come into force immediately, has omitted section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 which now provides full copyright protection for the period of the author's life plus 70 years.

Removing this provision means that designs on which the copyright has expired will now be protected again. It is also not just the designs themselves that will need licensing again, but images of them and images of their manufactured products too.

The Government has sited various examples of designs which will benefit from the removal of section 52 in its Impact Assessment, including the Fritz Hansen Egg Chair, the Flos Arco Lamp and the Eileen Gray Side Table.  However, many other industries are also likely to benefit, including jewellery designers, fabric designers, toy and games manufacturers and retailers of official merchandise.

The Bill means that holders of products, which are now newly covered by the extended copyright period, but whose owners cannot be found – otherwise known as Orphan works - will now have to pay for their copyright licensing on use, rather than when a rights holder comes forward. Orphan works are copyrighted material, such as books, films and music, with no identified owner. 

Hogan Lovells lawyer Penny Thornton says, "The Bill is good news for designers, as it extends the term of copyright protection for their works, even where mass-produced, but the repeal of Section 52 will have an impact on replica manufacturers, who will now need a licence to produce affordable high-street versions of designer furniture and fabric."

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