Commission’s notice on Brexit and copyright: Is it as bad as it sounds?

1 May 2018

Industries: TMT
Services: Copyright

by Penny Thornton and Alastair Shaw

On 28 March 2018 the Commission published a Notice to Stakeholders on the Withdrawal of the UK and EU rules in the field of Copyright. The Notice reminds stakeholders that, unless the UK comes to an agreement with the EU, there will be legal repercussions to Brexit.

The Commission Notice says that all EU “primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019”. It goes on to point out that, although the UK is a party to many of the main international copyright treaties, including the WCT, WPPT and TRIPS, these treaties do not provide the same level of protection as EU copyright laws nor do they provide any particular cross-border measures for the benefit of rights-holders or users within the EU internal market.

Whilst it is true that the international copyright treaties do not provide the same protection for copyright works, in all areas, as EU law, it is misleading to say that all EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply on the withdrawal date. In fact the UK’s copyright laws will not change on the day of withdrawal. UK copyright has been subject to a number of EU directives aimed at harmonising national copyright regimes across the EU. These directives have been implemented in the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and other secondary legislation and will form part of the body of law which the UK has decided to retain on Brexit, pursuant to the government’s proposed European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (expected to be enacted around June of 2018).

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