UK Copyright Law Change Will Impede Classic Designs From Being Photographed

I just found this interesting piece of information on the web that could radically alter the way art and design information is disseminated in the future. It concerns changes to UK copyright laws which will require everyone to have permission, or pay a licence fee to publish photographs of objects designed less than 70 years, after the death of its creator. Much like ‘DACS’* works for paintings and other media like sculpture, established designers will receive royalties on the images published of their work. This will also affect the internet. It could mean that a photo of a model sitting in an Jacobsen Chair will require permission, or it is subject to a fee being paid. 

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, will extend copyright to artistic objects like designer furniture from 25 years after it was first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. In most cases that will be over a hundred years after the object was designed. During this period, photographing an item will require permission from the copyright holder, regardless of who owns the object or where it is placed in the photo. 

Other groups affected will be publishers of books on design like the popular Taschen series 1000 Chairs etc…. They will likely be hit by this ridiculous copyright extension. Natalie Kontarsky, Associate Director for Legal and Business Affairs at Thames & Hudson, said she did not mince words, “The government has actually said ‘you are collateral damage’ in a very sanguine, offhand way. The dark end of the spectrum would be to take books out of circulation and have to pulp. Obviously no one wants to look at that.” Licensing images retrospectively is likely to be a very expensive prospect—in terms of actual licence fees to rightsholders, working out who actually owns the rights and the cost of getting picture researchers involved and people like me on the legal side,” Kontarsky added.

The UK government will be holding a consultation into changing the way in which the use of images of design works is regulated. This will likely come into law after a six-month to  a five-year changeover period.  A recent article in The Bookseller suggests that the start of the new regulations may be as soon as October 2016. The UK government has not really prepared or consulted the associated industries about this radical change to copyright.  Photographers around the world will be protesting at this further erosion of artistic licence.  “The Government considers that photographers and image libraries already bear costs for time and administration when assessing whether they need to obtain clearance when photographing other artistic works such as sculptures or paintings.” This is far too much of a simplification of the overall picture. It now seems likely that the UK government will inflict this licensing on the many professionals and publishers which will see UK citizens become law-breakers without giving it a second thought.

*Founded over 30 years ago, DACS is a flagship organisation that campaigns for artists’ rights, championing their sustained and vital contribution to the creative economy. They collect and distribute royalties to visual artists and their estates through Payback, Dutch Public Lending Right, Artist’s Resale Right, Copyright Licensing and Artimage.

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