Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Bloggers face UK copyright problems in 2016

There’s an odd challenge that bloggers will have to navigate next year. It's all due to weird UK laws and the most likely to be effected are those who blog about art, design and certain household objects like furniture.

The core of the problem is copyright. A change made in 2013 to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act reinstated the full term of copyright protect of 3D artist to 70 years and included 2D representations of that.

Let me try and put that into plain English with a blogging example.

If a fashion blogger reviews a necklace, includes their own photograph of that necklace and that necklace design was protected by copyright then that blogger could be in trouble. The blogger may think because they took and used their own photograph (a 2D representation of the 3D necklace) they would be okay but actually the copyright for the photograph belongs to whoever has the copyright of the necklace.

I’m not a lawyer. Don’t take this blog post as legal advice. I’m sharing my understanding of what this means in order to foster debate and learn from people smarter than me.

It was a post on The Digital Reader that alerted me to the ticking clock. The law was changed in 2013 but because lots of books are sold containing photographs of art, design and other copyright protected items retailers were given until October 2016 to clear their stock.

That means there’s less than a year to comply. Bloggers may have monetised sites that make heavy use of photography, often their own, that will be in breach before the year’s out.

The Design Council in the UK had championed the change of the law. In this statement, published on Dezeen, it was noted;

The Design Council has welcomed today’s announcement by the Government that copyright in designs which qualify for copyright protection is to be enforceable beyond the current 25 years to a term of ‘life of the creator plus 70 years’. Under the new measures, certain ‘artistic’ designs of manufactured goods (for example certain furniture, lamps and jewellery) created before 1987 may now be protected from unauthorised copying under copyright law.

Sir Terence Conran said: “By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that in turn will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – let’s use it.”

It’s not clear whether bloggers will even notice the law passing into its enforcement period in October and it’s certainly not clear whether designers will start to take action against sites publishing photographs. I suspect some might.

Originally, it was furniture manufacturers, companies like Knoll, Cassina and Vitra, who pushed for the judicial review.

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