Art that Works
since 1972


Artistic works made since 1 August 1989 are given uprated protection by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright belongs to the 'artist'. Copyright arises automatically in UK Law and requires no registration or other formality. All 'artistic works' are protected against unauthorised reproduction, publication and commercial dealing.

Length of Protection. Works made after 1989 are protected for the artist's lifetime plus 50 years after death. The 'artist' has the exclusive right to prevent or to authorise reproduction, publication and commercial dealing.

Infringement of Copyright. Action can be taken in both the civil or criminal courts. Criminal remedies include an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison. In addition the court may order payment of compensation plus payment of legal costs.

Note: 'Artistic works' can include, amongst other things, graphic design, illustration, photography, animation, writing, digital artwork, photocopies and proofs.

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Design Rights

Commissioning designs for products or goods gives the client (not the 'artist') design rights.

This is another form of intellectual property, it is intended to protect products, goods and packages against commercial competition (without the need to prove breach of copyright).

It means that for most practical purposes whoever commissions the work (and pays the invoice) has rights over the design, product or package. It effectively stops the designer from using the same material on another project.

Design right arises automatically in UK law and requires no registration or other formality. (This is not the same as copyright which is owned by the 'artist').

Length of Protection. Works are protected for five years before the product/article is marketed. For a further five years from when the item is made available in the marketplace - and then for a final five years after that.

Transfer of Rights

Owners of copyright or design rights cannot legally part with their intellectual property unless they execute a document signed by them specifically giving or selling their rights to some other person or body.

For more detailed information have a look at the Patents Office website at

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© - Last Updated 23 Oct, 2019


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