Copyright law has changed for industrially manufactured artistic works

On the 28th July the repeal of section 52 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act came into force. Previously this meant that artistic works which were exploited as industrial designs would only be protected by copyright for 25 years from the first marketing of the product.  After this period the industrial design could be freely copied by others.  For example, if you have ever wondered why cheap copies of Mies Van Der Rohe’s iconic Barcelona chair, can be found on your local high-street, then this is the reason.  However, the repeal brings these works back into line with other artistic works which are protected by copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator.  This means that works which were previously out of copyright will be back under copyright protection. There is a six month embargo period until the end of January 2017 to allow shops and publishers to clear old stock and ensure that any new copies are made with the permission of the copyright owner.  Any copies which are privately owned should not be affected.

This exception will apply to both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional works, such as wallpaper, fabric, furniture and jewellery where the original design has come from an artistic work that has been copied.  However, one challenge will be identifying what constitutes a  “work of artistic craftsmanship” as there is no statutory definition.  Originally this term was added to the law in 1911 to reflect the change in what was considered to be art and protect works from William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement.  Ultimately if the artistic craftsmanship of a work comes into question it will be up to a judge to make the final decision in a court of law. DACS has provided guidance on this area, which is:

  1. A conscious intention to produce a work of art
  2. A real artistic or aesthetic quality
  3. A sufficient degree of craftsmanship and artistry (existing simultaneously)

For further information please refer to this guide issued by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office at this link.

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