Illegal Selfies

Illegal Selfies

You better not catch your favourite piece of furniture hustling in on your selfie.

Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you. From April 6th 2020, due to new copyright rules, you may no longer be able to take a photo of your living room furniture legally.

As existing copyright rules are set to be repealed, as a result of a 2013 decision, designer furniture is now considered to be an artistic work for the purposes of the legislation.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill repeals section 52 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988, as the government states it fails to protect owners of mass-produced artistic items.

Understanding the Copyright, Patents and Designs Act 1988

The Copyright, Patents and Designs Act 1988 sets out a range of products and services that the creator can protect to prevent others from copying or stealing work without the agreement or the knowledge of the owner. A whole variety of works are protected by this law, including those that are musical, literary, dramatic and artistic. It is this last category that has since been updated with considerations from the furniture world. 

As the art and technological sphere have exploded with innovative designs and evolutionary uses in the last decade, the law now considers it fundamental to the owner and creator of furniture designs to protect this right under copyright. The aim of this protection is to encourage them to progress and create more works rather than stifle the development of the industry by harnessing fear that their hard work and efforts could be easily replicated.

Good news for furniture designers

While this is excellent news for budding furniture designers, and while I’m sure we all agree that these created works should be protected, how far can the law go? And will it affect us regular Joe Bloggs sitting on our sofa having a chat and coffee with our friend while getting innocently snapped? After all, surely that’s not the intended use or purpose of the change to the law.

Current copyright laws state that design rights are kept for 25 years, but this shall be extended to a product or design for a further 70 years after the creator’s death, as are photos of the item.

So, can I take a pic of my sofa?

With these new laws in place, using a literal perspective, no. You can only take photos of a designer piece of furniture if you obtain a copyright licence from the owner. As the owner of the created works has full ownership, only he/she can provide another individual with the right to take even a photo, providing them with derivative rights.

Lookalike furnishing

This new law means that affordable and lower priced lookalike furniture choices will be illegal as they shall be deemed to take advantage of current high-end and designer models.

Replicas will no longer therefore be allowed and so retailers and manufacturers will have to be careful as to what designs already exist within the marketplace.

Impact on you

While this new law appears difficult to impose upon the average person that does not have any connection to the furniture world apart from buying it and therefore, may not be the primary target the act aims to address the actions of, it does become a challenging issue for furniture photographers. Taking images of designer furniture will now come with a right attached to it that the photographer has obtained from the copyright owner.


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