UK copyright protection for designers to be extended in April 2020

    The Government has announced that the length of copyright protection in the UK for mass-produced artistic works will increase on 6 April 2020. This will primarily benefit designers in the applied or decorative arts, for work produced in multiple copies of 50 or more.

    How will the law change?

    Currently, artistic works lose copyright protection in the UK after 25 years if they are mass-produced with copies of 50 or more. This primarily affects designers who create, in multiple copies, copyright-protected bespoke works demonstrating a high level of artistry and craftsmanship, such as certain types of jewellery, furniture, ceramics, textiles and even wallpaper.
    When copyright protection ceases after 25 years, these works can be reproduced without needing to seek permission from or pay a licence fee to the designer.
    From 6 April 2020, the law will be updated so that mass-produced artistic works will benefit from the same length of copyright protection as other artistic works. In the UK, this is the lifetime of the artist or designer plus a further 70 years after their death.
    It means that, in addition, certain works which are out of copyright will come back into copyright when the changes come into effect on 6 April 2020.

    Background to the changes

    The change to the law is one of the outcomes of the Government’s wide-ranging Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Act, passed in April 2013. The motivations behind the act are to boost business in the UK, a key element of which is to modernise rules around copyright.
    Following a public consultation with designers and businesses in the creative industries, as well as with others likely to be affected by the changes, the Government has announced its decisions regarding how and when the law should best come into effect.
    Read DACS’ response to the consultation (PDF)

    Read the Government’s summary of responses

    Government to publish guidance notes on the changes

    One of the key points of our response was how the transition could be made easier for photographers who have taken photographs of works which will come back into copyright.
    The Government has clarified that the change in copyright law will not be applied retrospectively. In other words, existing photographs of works coming back into copyright will not become copyright infringements.
    If the photograph has been reproduced however, on a website or in a book for example, the publisher will need to clear the rights with the designer and apply for a licence by 6 April 2020. The level of resource and time this requires is the reason behind the Government’s decision for a five year lead period before the change in law comes into effect.
    Another concern raised in our response is the need for greater clarity on the types of works that will come back into copyright. The Government acknowledges this and will be publishing guidance notes to help those who are unsure if they need to act as a result of the changes.
    We will be monitoring the Government’s progress in this area and will keep artists notified by reporting updates on our website and via Twitter and Facebook.

    Related links:


    Image: Furniture designer, Max Lamb. Photographed by Brian Benson. © Brian Benson, 2015.

    Posted on 25/02/2015 by Laura Ward-Ure