Thursday, 9 May 2013

Chnges to copyright law: industrial designs, orphan works, collecting societies

Significant changes to the copyright law will happen now that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has become law.  It received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013.  Probably the most significant thing it does is repeal Section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, so industrially-exploited artistic works will benefit from copyright protection for the full term of life plus 70 years instead of having the term cut short to 25 years, to match the protection available under the Registered Designs Act.  The change seems to have been considered necessary to comply with the Designs Directive.

The 2013 Act will also lead to the introduction of a system for licensing orphan works, as well as a clearance procedure for using individual orphan works.  As far as the Act is concerned, it only empowers the Minister to make regulations to do these things, so we must wait to see the form of regulations, but in the meantime right holders and photographers in particular are anxious about what this change in the law will mean for them.  One important matter that worries everyone who will be affected by this change is what exactly will be required in the way of a “diligent search” before advantage can be taken of the new rules.

The Act also gives the Secretary of State power to introduce a code of practice for collecting societies.  But one thing it does not do is enact provisions to make it much easier to amend the exceptions to copyright protection which the Hargreaves Review recommended.  The provisions originally included in the Bill were watered down by Parliament, and a good thing too. 

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