No more personal copying… of artworks?

Posted on: July 21, 2015 by

There was an interesting development last week in the area of copyright exceptions in the UK. A judge of the High Court quashed (i.e. nullified or rendered inoperable) the exception introduced by the Government last October through the Personal Copies for Private Use Regulations 2014. This is quite something. The courts, through judicial review, are overturning a governmental mechanism which had allowed certain types of personal copying of protected works. The reason underpinning the judgment is that the scheme had failed to provide fair compensation to rightholders.

As I had explained in an article in Art Antiquity and Law last December, discussing the various 2014 UK copyright changes, that particular exception allowing private copying for personal use would not have much of an impact, for instance, on art collectors who wanted to make copies of works in their collection. The regulations were such that they only permitted the copying of pre-existing copies (theoretically applying to prints) and would not apply if the original copy was then transferred to another person, other than on a private and temporary basis. And so the judgment from last week may not have too much of an impact on the workings of the art world.

But what is most interesting is the facility with which a court was able to quash the regulations. One wonders whether any of the other copyright exceptions introduced in 2014 may similarly face the axe, as the subject of judicial review. Think of the new exceptions for caricature, parody, pastiche, the extremely vague exception for ‘quotation’ (whatever that means)… are these exceptions not also cutting rightholders out of fair compensation? It may only be a matter of time before they too are challenged before the UK courts. And the outcome of that challenge will most certainly have a pronounced effect on the art world.