At the beginning of this month, the EU Commission issued a report on the impact of Brexit on UK copyright. This indicates that, as of 30 March 2019, the various EU Directives and Regulations on copyright will no longer apply in relation to UK Copyright ownership.

Although UK copyright law is largely national, it is based on several EU Directives and Regulations. In its report, the EU Commission specifies the impacts on leaving the EU on UK broadcasters and database users, some of which we’ve summarised below.

The EU “Broadcasting” Directive concerning copyright applicable to satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission, and which essentially allows for trans-frontier broadcasting, will no longer apply to UK based broadcasters. Currently, UK broadcasters are only bound by the laws of the Member State they are actually broadcasting from, and not by the laws of the Member States in which their signal is received. Post-Brexit, UK based broadcasters will have to secure clearance from all relevant copyright holders in the countries they are broadcasting to. At the same time, EU broadcasters to the UK will have to secure clearance from all relevant rights holders in the UK, before broadcasting here.

The EU’s “Collective Rights Management” Directive, which sets common standards for multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the single market, will no longer apply to ensure the governance and transparency of UK based Collective Management Organisations/Collecting Societies.

The EU’s “Orphan Works” Directive will no longer apply to UK orphan works. This has standardised the rules on the digitisation and online display of “ orphan” works held in UK cultural institutions, i.e. works including books, newspaper and magazine articles and films that are still protected by copyright but whose authors or other rightholders are either not known or cannot be located or contacted to obtain copyright permissions.

The EU’s 2017 Directive which enables visually impaired, blind or otherwise print-disabled persons to obtain accessible format copies from authorised entities in the EU will no longer apply to UK persons.

The EU “Online Content Portability” Regulation will no longer enable UK residents travelling to the EU to be assured of the equivalent provisions of access to the same content, on the same range and number of devices, for the same number of users, and with the same range of functionalities from their online content providers.

Finally, the EU’s “Database” Directive entitling UK nationals (without habitual residence in the EU) and UK incorporated companies to maintain or obtain a sui generis database right in respect of EU databases will no longer apply.

The above-specified anticipated consequences of Brexit are of course subject to any re-negotiation of terms of withdrawal, in the run up. The UK Government has also confirmed it will be addressing the final consequences of the Brexit agreement by updating national laws or establishing equivalent new national rights, so we await further developments on these areas of copyright law.


Joanna Larkey

Senior Associate
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