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1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

The key British copyright legislation, covering works across all media

Main image of 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act is the key legislation governing copyright in the United Kingdom. It provides legal protection for original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, for films, sound recordings, broadcasts and cable programmes, and for typographical arrangements of published editions.

It replaced earlier Copyright Acts passed in 1911 and 1956 while retaining several aspects of that legislation - specifically the establishment of the term of copyright for original literary, dramatic and/or musical works to the life of the author plus fifty years. This was subsequently amended by European Union Directive 93/98, extending the term of copyright of works originating from the European Economic Area to the life of the author plus seventy years.

For films and sound recordings, the Act provides copyright protection for a period of fifty years from the end of the calendar year in which they were made or broadcast live. Again, these provisions were extended by Directive 93/98 whereby the copyright of EEA films now expires on the date of death of the last significant creative contributor plus seventy years.

The 1988 Act also introduced three new moral rights into British copyright legislation: the right not to have a work falsely attributed, the right of the author (which includes film directors) to be identified in relation to their work, and the right not to permit their work to suffer derogatory treatment. This is defined as any addition, deletion, alteration or adaptation which amounts to a distortion and mutilation or which is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author/director.

The Act also introduced a statutory civil right for performers, giving them the right not to have recordings used without their consent. This provision was introduced as a result of Rickless v. United Artists Corporation, a case brought about by the estate of Peter Sellers in protest at the use of footage in the film The Trail of the Pink Panther (d. Blake Edwards, 1982). Performances given up to fifty years ago are protected, not just in the UK but in any country if the performers are considered 'qualifying persons'. These include not just dramatic and musical performances but readings of literary works, variety programmes and even mime.

The Act also covers the illegal reception of programmes, the manufacture and sale of devices designed to defeat copy protection, and patent and design law.

The full text is available on the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.

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