UK Government announcement - transitional provisions for the repeal of section 52 of the CDPA 1988

27 April 2015

On 10th March 2015, the UK Government announced the repeal of section 52 of the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

Currently under section 52, artistic works lose copyright protection after 25 years if they have been mass-produced. Mass-production is considered to occur when more than 50 copies of the same artistic work have been made. The 25 year period runs from the end of the calendar year when such articles are first marketed. Other artistic works are protected by copyright for the lifetime of the creator and 70 years. The new legislation will afford mass-produced artistic works the same protection as other artistic works and will harmonise protection under UK law with that in force elsewhere in Europe.

September 2014, the Government commenced a six week consultation period with businesses, designers, the legal profession, and users of artistic works. During this period, the Government considered questions such as the legal costs likely to be incurred by parties affected by the transition, the length of the transition period, and whether copies made or traded before the implementation of the repeal should remain unaffected by the change in law. There was also consultation on the provisions required if business wished to transition from trading unlicensed copies to licensed copies. Businesses reported during this phrase that they felt that a three year transition period would be too brief for them to adapt to the changes in law. Designers, on the contrary, argued against a significant delay in commencing the repeal.

Following the consultation, the Government has decided that the repeal of section 52 CDPA will commence as of 6 April 2020 and has established transitional provisions for businesses and individuals which trade in copies of industrially-manufactured artistic works. Such persons:

a.         will have an indefinite period to sell off existing copies

b.         will be prevented from the making or importing of new unlicensed copies

c.         may freely deal with existing copies after the repeal comes into force, a provision
which includes the possession, selling, offering for sale or hire, public exhibition, distributing to the public, or putting in circulation of copies


The Government plans to issue further non-statutory guidance to aid preparations for the change in law.

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