UK design copyright bill
comes into force

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UK design copyright bill comes into force

News: a bill to extend copyright protection on industrial design from 25 years to the length of the author's life plus 70 years has today become law in the UK.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which also includes wide-ranging reforms to employment and shareholder rights, repeals section 52 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988, which limited the terms of protection for mass-produced artistic works.

The changes to copyright law will give design the same terms of protection as books and music, extending rights over a design from the existing 25 years to the length of the author's life plus an additional 70 years.

The legislation also allows for the commercial and noncommercial use of ‘orphan’ works - copyrighted designs for which the owner is unknown or untraceable – and the appointment of an authorising body to license this use.

Supporting the introduction of the bill last year, Sir Terence Conran said: "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."

In Milan this year, British designer Tom Dixon (whose much-copied Beat lamps are pictured above) told Dezeen that copying was becoming "an increasingly big problem" for his business, while Dutch designer Marcel Wanders agreed that "stealing most of the time is more cheap than buying".

Not everyone in the design industry welcomes the new law, however. In a recent opinion column for Dezeen, architect Sam Jacob argued that the extension of copyright for design would "condemn us to mid-century modernism". "Copyright’s expiration period creates dynamism in creative activity," he noted. "The extension will mean there is less incentive to invest, to experiment and to develop new designs."

See all news about copying.

  • jaco

    Sam Jacob is right. It’s going to slow the innovation a lot, just as it has happened in history. Unbelievable what stupid laws people can make nowadays.

    • Chris

      Last time I looked, the definition of innovation was the introduction of something new. Please do tell how this law restricts innovation when its very principle is to encourage it?

  • garo ungaro

    Welcome news. A designer, no matter what, will always do what he thinks are good and better designs.

  • laura skeeters

    I don’t know where people got the guts to say that copying is fine. Like Einstein said: everybody is good at answering, but few can formulate the right question. That’s what innovative designers do: they formulate the question.

    Copying is answering to a need that you did not even know existed until an innovative designer created this need. Take examples like the modern kitchen, the refrigerator, the iPhone, the sofa-bed.

    This is protecting what is right: great ideas.

  • Weernink

    What if copyright laws create less incentive to innovate? Companies can continue to exploit their designs for years without an incentive to create something new. This kind of legislation makes the world less dynamic. It’s not the established companies that create jobs but the new ones. The established companies want to protect what they have.

    Also, innovation is 95% copying and adding 5% creativity. Most of what we do is copying. Most of the time innovation is evolution. Only in a few cases it is revolutionary. If you block evolutionary innovation you stop most of it.