For artistic works that are produced industrially in bulk (more than 50 articles made), the copyright protection was limited previously to a term of 25 years, so to be commensurate with the term obtainable for registered designs (which protect the outward appearance of products).  However this copyright term has now been extended for such artistic works to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.  This brings the term of copyright protection into line with all other artistic works and with that offered by most other EU member states.

Although the change came into force back in July 2016, the government have today provided updated guidancon the practical effects for businesses of this legal change. Artistic works affected are original pieces of work that show “artistic craftsmanship”.  This is defined as having both “artistic quality” (e.g. similar to a work of art) and “craftsmanship” that has resulted from special training, skill and knowledge (silversmiths, potters, woodworkers and hand-embroiders, for example, may fall into this category).

As the term of protection has extended, this means that artistic works for which the copyright protection expired may now be protected again for a further period of time. It may also mean that third parties who previously were free to make copies of such artistic works (following the expiry of the copyright) may now have to obtain a licence to continue to do so.  There are a number of transitional provisions relating to this which the governments guidance explains.

The guidance also explains the changes in the law relating to 3D and 2D copies of works, the image rights and sales within the rest of the EU.


“The repeal of section 52 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has raised questions for a range of groups, including the design sector, publishing, photography and furniture retail. This guidance will help businesses, organisations and individuals think about whether they are affected, what action they should take in relation to the transitional arrangements the government has put in place, and what copyright exceptions might help them continue to carry out their business.”