Copyright changes set to 'decimate' illustrated publishing

Copyright changes set to 'decimate' illustrated publishing

Illustrated publishing stands to be “decimated” after recent changes in copyright law, industry figures are warning.

Publishers of books containing photos or illustrations of items such as furniture, architecture and jewellery could be forced to abandon stock to “fire sale”, or pulp titles, as early as next year, due to an unintended “knock-on effect” of revised copyright law made in response to lobbying from within the furniture industry.

A legal change made in 2013 to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act (technically, the repeal of Section 52) is set to reinstate the full term of copyright protection (70 years) to 2D representations of 3D artistic works. Previously the duration of the term was 25 years. This means many images previously free to use would now incur fees, applying to any book stock sold or published after the legal change is implemented.

Now the government has changed the transition period for the new legislation to take effect from five years to six months, following a judicial review brought in the UK by three furniture manufacturers— US-based Knoll, Italy-based Cassina and Switzerland-based Vitra—with the clock ticking for publishers to comply by October 2016.

“It’s had this terrible knock-on effect on publishers who publish 2D images of design objects,” said Natalie Kontarsky, associate director for legal and business affairs at Thames & Hudson. “The government has actually said ‘you are collateral damage’ in a very sanguine, offhand way. The dark end of the spectrum would be to take books out of circulation and have to pulp. Obviously no one wants to look at that. Licensing images retrospectively is likely to be a very expensive prospect—in terms of actual licence fees to rightsholders, working out who actually owns the rights and the cost of getting picture researchers involved and people like me on the legal side... It’s very complex.”

Iona Silverman of law firm Baker & McKenzie said it was “unfair to require books which are legitimate one day to be pulped the next because of a change in the law”. Intellectual Property specialist Lionel Bentley from the University of Cambridge told The Bookseller that the government’s initial implementation period of five years “never seemed likely to be sustainable”. Professor Bentley added: “Now the government has lurched the other way, recognising but then proposing to ignore the concerns of publishers, photographers and their intermediaries.”

Julia Ruxton, picture manager for Laurence King, said she envisaged a 60% to 70% rise in production costs should the changes be fully enforced, with individual books seeing costings jump by tens of thousands of pounds—”which makes any book on fashion or modern design completely unviable”, she added.

“I hope the battle isn’t lost,” said Laurence King, founder of the eponymous list which is one of several publishers, alongside Quarto, Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury, Thames & Hudson and the V&A, as well as picture libraries such as Getty and the British Association of Picture Libraries & Agencies, and the Publishers Association (PA), to have raised concerns with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

King added: “They are incredibly expensive books to put together, largely because of the copyright fees we have to pay for illustrations. Students would no longer be able to afford them. In practice, we would have to almost stop publishing this type of book.” Looking to “raise this politically”, the PA is planning to highlight the lack of guidance from the IPO, the incomplete impact assessment, the lack of a separate arrangement for the use of 2D images of 3D works (generally thought to be the most practical solution) and the lack of proportionality and balance in what is being proposed.

PA chief executive Richard Mollet said: “We are incredibly concerned over the government’s U-turn on the transition arrangements for the repeal of Section 52. They are effectively imposing a four-month period for publishers to get new permissions in place but this is simply too short a time period for publishers to comply. This, coupled with the introduction of new measures on depletion of stock and the lack of clear guidance, is very worrying. We are raising these concerns with the government and calling on it to think again urgently.”

Publishers hoping to respond to the government’s consultation document must do so by Wednesday (9th December), with affected publishers being encouraged to reach out to PA policy director Susie Winter directly. “We all need to respond individually.

"I don’t think we can afford to leave it to chance,” said Ruxton. She added: “Livelihoods are at stake.”