Government has announced that copyright in designs which qualify for copyright protection is to be enforceable beyond the current 25 years to a term of ‘life of the creator plus 70 years’. Under the new measures, certain ‘artistic’ designs of manufactured goods (for example certain furniture, lamps and jewellery) created before 1987 may now be protected from unauthorised copying under copyright law.
The changes are part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Bill, recently announced by the Government. The Bill will repeal section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which currently restricts copyright to 25 years (calculated from the date on which the work is first placed on the market) on artistic works which are exploited through an industrial process. In practice, this means that owners of any copyrights in classic designs will be able to use copyright law to prevent the sale of unauthorised copies of such designs. Not all works will necessarily be artistic works (and therefore able to be covered by copyright) and the repeal will not apply retrospectively, so retailers will be able to clear any unauthorised existing stock.
The UK had been one of only three Member States (Estonia and Romania) to place a limit on the term of protection for copyright works which are produced through an industrial process, and today’s move will clarify and update the law in line with the rest of the EU.
What does this mean for you?
By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that in turn will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – lets use it.
Sir Terence Conran
Current copyright laws leave designers woefully under protected compared to similar creative professions. This initiative is a small step toward establishing much needed protection of valuable intellectual property.
As a designer actively pushing boundaries technologically and aesthetically and whose entire life is devoted to enriching industrial design with uniqueness and creative insight, one requires the full support of all authorities, fellow designers, clients, institutions and governments in order to secure copyright and retain the absolute soul of why we design, retaining at all costs our cultural and commercial integrity.
After months of Equal Rights for Design campaigning, we at ELLE Decoration are absolutely thrilled to see our efforts rewarded by this change in government policy. This is timely, correct and smart future-thinking for Brand UK. There are many more steps, not least of which will be changes in enforcement policy to back it up, but this was the big hurdle. Absolutely over-joyed that ELLE Decoration was a part of making this happen.
I am very happy to hear of these changes that help to recognise the true value of design, which is very encouraging for the design community as a whole. A big thank you to those who championed the cause.
This is great news for the design industry and will bring the UK in line with the rest of the EU. As retailers of genuine modern classic furniture as well as the worldwide licence holders for Eileen Gray designs, we are more aware than most that the market is swamped with a multitude of cheap copies. My hope is that this change will encourage design creativity to flourish once more as UK designers will feel more confident that their intellectual property is protected and that pursuing a career in design is worthwhile.
Ruth Aram, Aram Store
Take the 620 Chair Programme - it took five years to fight a plagiarism case in Germany; it cost a huge sum for a small company; and only then does the producer stand a chance of achieving copyright protection. So, the 620 Chair Programme is protected but Rams's 606 Universal Shelving System is not protected. Of course, 606 is one of the more copied products on the market (I even saw a 505 shelving system recently). The 620 Chair Programme is already protected for 70 years after Rams's death because it is protected under German law - fortunately he has just celebrated his 80th birthday, so there is no sign of the 70 years starting yet.
However, furniture producers still need much more help with the process of achieving copyright protection in the first place. It is here that I would like to see more time and effort taken by the legislators. The copying of furniture is out of hand and, ultimately, it is the customer who loses out. Vitsoe would be able to support and service its long-term customers much better if its market position was not constantly being eroded by products that copy the look (of its shelving system) but fail to give the high product quality and careful service which genuinely allow customers to live better, with less, that lasts longer.
Mark Adams, Vitsoe