Detailed guide: Changes to copyright law from 1 January 2021

Government Digital Service

January 30
14:09 2020

The UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU provides for a transition period until 1 January 2021. During this time, EU law will continue to have effect in the UK. Intellectual property law in the UK will not change during the transition period.

This guidance sets out how UK copyright law will change after the end of the transition period on 1 January 2020, subject to any changes under the future UK-EU relationship. It is not legal advice. You should get legal advice where you have specific questions relating to the law.


Copyright is a national right that each country provides separately. However, copyright is largely harmonised internationally by a number of treaties and, in the EU, by a body of EU copyright legislation that builds on the international treaties.

A substantial part of UK copyright law is derived from the EU copyright framework. Because of this, there are references in UK law to the EU, the EEA, and member states. Some of these references occur in the UKs implementation of EU cross-border copyright arrangements. These arrangements apply only within the EU and EEA and provide reciprocal protections and benefits between member states.

To make sure UK copyright law functions properly once we have left the EU, we introduced the Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019(Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) under the powers of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

These regulations remove or correct references to the EU, EEA, or member states in UK copyright legislation to preserve the effect of UK law where possible.

The reciprocal cross-border arrangements will be amended or brought to an end, as appropriate.The regulations are due to come into force at the end of the transition period. During the transition period, the EU and UK will negotiate a new relationship. Depending on the outcome of these negotiations, these regulations may be amended.

Most UK copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in the EU and the UK because of the UKs participation in the international treaties on copyright.

For the same reason, EU copyright works will continue to be protected in the UK. This applies to works made before and after the end of the transition period.

Sui generis database rights

Portability of online content services

Collective rights management

Artists resale right

Artists resale rights entitle creators of artistic works to a royalty payment each time their works are sold by an art market professional. Under the EU Resale Right Directive, nationals of EU Member States and third countries that provide resale rights on a reciprocal basis are eligible for the right in the EU.

The UK has implemented the Resale Right Directive through the Artists Resale Right Regulations 2006. These regulations will be amended to reflect the UKs position outside the EU, while continuing to provide the right to foreign nationals on a reciprocal basis.

Nationals of the UK and other countries that provide reciprocal treatment for UK nationals (including EU member states) will continue to receive resale rights in the UK after the end of the transition period. This is in accordance with the Berne Convention. No changes are being made to the calculation of royalty payments.

Cable retransmissions of works

When a copyright work is broadcast between EEA member states and retransmitted by cable in the receiving member state, the copyright holder can only exercise their rights through a collective management organisation. The UK applies this rule to cable retransmissions of broadcasts from any other EEA member state.

After the end of the transition period, member states may no longer apply this rule to broadcasts originating in the UK.

Copyright holders whose works are broadcast from the UK and retransmitted via cable in the EEA:

  • may need to negotiate licences with the cable operator directly
  • could see statutory licensing terms imposed on the cable retransmission of their works in EEA states

UK legislation will continue to apply existing rules to cable retransmissions of broadcasts originating in an EEA member state.

Works that are currently eligible for copyright in the UK will continue to be eligible after the end of the transition period.

Works are eligible for copyright protection in the UK if they are:

  • made by a national of the UK, EEA or any country that is party to the international copyright treaties


  • first published or transmitted in the UK, EEA or any country that is party to the international copyright treaties

References to the EEA will be removed from UK law. This will not stop EEA works qualifying for copyright, because all EEA states are party to the international treaties.

Copyright duration in the UK for works from the UK, EEA, or other countries will not change after the end of the transition period.

Currently, EEA works are given the same copyright duration in the UK as UK works. For works from outside the EEA, copyright lasts for the term granted in the country-of-origin or the term granted to UK works, whichever is less.

References to the EEA will be removed from UK law in this area so that duration for EEA works is calculated in the same way as for non-EEA works. Because copyright duration is equal across the UK and the EEA, there will be no immediate impact on copyright duration in the UK.

Use of EU satellite decoders

Published 30 January 2020

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