New copyright laws in the UK have come into effect, effectively banning replicas of some of the most-copied icons of 20th century furniture design – including pieces by Arne Jacobsen, and Charles and Ray Eames. As of 28 July 2016, dealers cannot make or import new furniture copies. After a transitional period of six months, they will no longer be able to sell them either.
The change brings the UK – once derided as “a Trojan Horse for the importation of copies into Europe” – into line with the rest of the EU, which has longer-lasting copyright protections. While the future of the laws may be uncertain following June’s Brexit vote, for the time being UK copyright protections for industrial design have been extended. They’ve changed from 25 years after an item is first marketed to 70 years from the death of the creator.
This is the result of the repeal of section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988, which previously exempted industrially manufactured pieces from the copyright protections afforded to artistic works.
Although there’s still a legal grey area for items “inspired by” designer classics and boasting only small differences from the originals, the shift could spell the end for businesses that rely on rip-offs.