Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 section 52, artistic works that have been industrially manufactured have a reduced term of copyright protection, namely 25 years after first marketing. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 section 74 will repeal section 52, so that industrially exploited works will now enjoy the full term of copyright protection, which is life of the author plus 70 years. Thus, certain works in which copyright had previously ceased to be enforceable will now effectively come back into copyright once the new law is implemented. This will obviously have an impact on any businesses which had previously operated legitimately, relying on the shorter term of copyright protection under the old law, as they will now either have to take a licence from the copyright owner or find alternative works for exploitation. Such businesses, who manufacture, import or sell unlicensed copies of artistic works, may range from furniture retailers to publishers of art books. There is also the question of disposal of existing stocks of products incorporating copies of works that will come back into copyright.
Planning for the new law will come at a financial cost to such businesses, and also take some time. On the other hand, rights holders and designers should be entitled to protect their copyright works and enjoy the full benefits from their exploitation.
The UK Government is currently consulting on the appropriate time frame for implementation of the repeal of section 52, seeking to balance the conflicting interests of those who will be affected by the change. The government's proposal is for a transition period of three years from April 2015, which is a mid-way point between the options of six months and five years from April 2015, proposed by other interested groups.