Posted on October 09, 2014
The Law is Changing : Designs under the Hammer
Many businesses in UK have been trading in design classic replica for decades, after years of investments and hard work, they managed to establish for themselves a solid business name, good reputation and honest international trade relations, on the other hand, many home owners and interior designers in UK have enjoyed the use of the reproduction furniture as it is becoming more popular and cost effective for families. Iconic pieces such Eames lounge chair ottoman, Ball chair by Eero Aarnio, Arne Jacobsen Egg chair, the Saarinen tulip table and many other reproduced copies of classic designs are very well loved by consumers in UK and Europe, not only for their inexpensive tag price but also for the quality and the style they provide.
New technologies have made design classic replica manufactured with high quality and precision to the original designs at a fraction of the cost which made these replicas very appealing and popular. these glorious days of design classic replica are numbered now as the government is changing the law and will prevent many iconic classic designs to be replicated and sold as replicas. Nobody knows now for sure before the law start taking forceful effect on the industry, it could be months, more or less.
The future of design classic replica is undoubtedly going out of business in UK, it is only matter of time before the law bands all trading in many iconic design classic replica, many businesses in UK start feeling the effect of the new changes in UK copyright law and start getting to the idea of loosing their businesses for good.
It is clearly that replica designer furniture is not the favorite cup of thea for everyone, we all remember the reaction of the editor of Elle Decoration Magazine towards the prime minister's wife Samantha Cameron when she purchased in 2011 a furniture replica of Achille Castiglioni's Arco lamp, she was aggressively criticized and labeled cheap, hypocritical and fake for supporting the replica furniture. MC Donald's were also heavenly denounced by Frtiz Hansen for buying an arne jacobsen reproductions and using it in their food chine stores. It seems that the argument between replica and original has been always in consent at struggle lately and the international lobby design don not allow design classic replica to be on the spot light of the public life.
The Old Law ( section 52 of designs and Patents Act1988 )
UK Government has allowed these classic designs to be replicated and reproduced after 25 year of its first industrial release, European countries regard this illegal as they set the limit of the copyright protection up to the life of the designer plus 70 years after his death. Only UK government, Romania and Estonia have made so far the exception to limit the copy right to only 25 years after the death of the designer.
Manufacturers outside UK such as Flos, vitra, Fritz Hansen, Knoll, Cassina,Teknolumen,Thornet are campaigning to change the copyright law in UK. Some of these companies claim a loss of thousands of dollars a years because of copies of design classics distributed across Europe from UK under the principal of free movement of goods in EU. Other lobby design claim that replica furniture undermines the integrity of the design and breach the intellectual property.
The New Copyright Law - May 2013
in May 2012 UK government announced her plan publicly for the first time to change the law and repealing section 52 of the copyright designs and patents Act 1988. Under this section designs are only protected for 25 years after the first industrial marketing of the product. meaning that design classic replica including Charles eames, Arne Jacobson, mies van der rhoe, Jean Prouve can be replicated legally without asking permission from the designers.
Finally in 2013/ 2014 the heat was felt by over 6000 furniture companies in UK that are now threatened to loose their businesses for good in the current economic crisis. The old Copyright law / section 52 of designs and Patents Act1988 has been amended in may 2013 and new legislation of copyright law is been placed in force.The new bill will extend the copyright of an industrial design from 25 years to include the lifetime of the designer plus 70 years after his death, the new copyright legislation will outlaw any reproduction, sell or distribution of any design deemed by the court of law in UK as Artistic.
The new legislation will include not only designer classic furniture but also all forms of intellectual property such as Artwork, clothing, photography, jewellery, watches, clocks, lamps and designer lighting, handbags and any other accessories, meaning that all classic designs and all intellectual property that are deem to be artistic by UK court, will be protected by law and extended from the 25 years to the entire life time of the designer plus 70 years after his death, replica produced or sold will be deemed illegal and breach of copyright legislation and subject to civil and criminal laws prosecution.
The Future and the New Bill Effects
UK government has updated its copyright law to come in line with EU legislation but still there is great confusion about what is considered to be artistic or not, only designs deemed by to be artistic bu UK court are entitle for a copyright protection and will be illegal to manufacture, sell or distribute as copies, any other classic designs or any intellectual copyright property which are not deemed to be artistic will be always legal to copy and sell as a replicas as long as they passed the 25 years period of their first mass-industrial production.
The journey of reforming UK copyright law is still at its very beginning, the court will study the case of every single designer classic piece and will decide chair by chair, table by table and every item separately.
Although this new law has put thousands of UK businesses at the end of a dark tunnel, government Ministers including Mr Vince Cable, Baroness Wilcox, and Viscount Younger have all assured us in writing that there will also be a transitional period which will be established by the IPO which will allow UK retailers time to change their businesses from selling 'artistic' products to 'non-artistic' products.
Transition Period is it really Enough for whom they lost their business ?
Has the Government planned any compensation?
Mr Vince Cable, Baroness Wilcox, and other government ministers have made a clear statements that furniture UK dealing in design classic replica will be given a transitional period to allow business to adapt with the new law , clearing their stocks change their model business, some estimate the transitional period will be few years not months.
The new bill will face many other challenges regarding the use of the copyrighted design classics, many experts believe that it will create many obstacles against publishing services ( books, magazines, news papers ), Universities specially lecturer in design history, museums and media producers.
all these institutions will need permission from the designer or the license holders to use any of their design images on any work, this legal process will definitely put these institutions in very slow mode and jeopardize their progress, If the BBC or any other TV Chanel want to produce a short documentary about Bauhaus Architecture, including images of designs made in the 1950s and 1960s, BBC will be required to ask permission from the copyright owners to broadcast the images.
The new bill will not only mark the end of design classic replica and all the UK retail businesses involved, it will have also a deep and negative consequences on many other industries, social, economics and educational areas on our society.