‘Yes, but is it good for artists?’ New copyright exceptions in UK law

Posted on: September 29, 2014 by

This is a big week for copyright exceptions in UK law. Wednesday will see enter into force no less than three exceptions making permissible use of copyright material that otherwise would be considered infringement. These will effectively expand the ways in which users of copyright material can make use of that material.

The first of these new exceptions is for private copying for personal use. This will allow people to make copies of works they have lawfully acquired for their own private use, so long as this is non-commercial. This could apply, for example, to a print owned by a collector: the collector will be able to copy it to create a backup, for the purposes of format shifting, or to store it.

The second exception expands the possibilities of fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review, by allowing a more general quotation exception. This means that you can quote, for instance a passage from a book, without having to necessarily critique or review that particular passage. The use, however, must still be ‘fair dealing’ – the conditions of which will ultimately be determined by a court.

And the last exception will allow the use of copyright material for the purposes of ‘caricature, parody or pastiche‘. A parody exception has existed under US law for some time; and has been a long time coming in the UK. As to the extent of parody, it will have to evoke an existing work while being noticably different and will have to constitute an expression of humour or mockery (on this definition, see the very recent European Court of Justice decision in Deckmyn). That being said, an artist who has seen her work parodied, may still have a moral right claim against the user, so long as the use being made satisfies the requirements of ‘derogatory treatment’ (at s 80 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988).


Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), a famous example of an artist parodying the work of another, in this case Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

It remains to be seen whether these changes will have an impact on the everyday use of material, whether on the web or elsewhere. Perhaps this is an example of the law simply catching up with the realities of the marketplace. Or perhaps, as is no doubt expected from the most optimistic of government sources, these changes will usher in a new era of expanded use and creativity.