It is no secret that the differences in national European law concerning the protection of designs, has been driving many Danish rights holders crazy for years on end. It has been difficult to come to terms with the fact that while many of our prominent Danish designs – designs of which we as a nation are proud – are protected under national Danish copyright law for the lifetime of the designer plus 70 years, it has been perfectly legal to purchase cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) copies in England and have them shipped to Denmark.
Many holders of such rights have fought in vain to stem the steady flow of such copies from England first to private consumers, and eventually and inevitably to the numerous flea markets, garage sales and even auction houses. While importing the copies for purely private use is perfectly legal in Denmark, the selling of such copies on the Danish market is not. But trying to stop private individuals from reselling their used copies is, to say the very least, a losing fight.
Help might just be at hand though, as the UK has recently announced a new measure to increase the protection of such rights. If passed, the protection of copyright in relation to manufactured furniture will be increased from the current span of a short 25 years to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years, bringing it into line with most other European Union member states.
From a legal perspective, the differences in national laws on copyright protection have given rise to many interesting questions. The laws on copyright have not been harmonized in the EU. Coupled with the laws concerning the free movement of goods in the Union and the advances of internet shopping, it has been possible to find loopholes which allow citizens in some countries to purchase copies from countries with a more lenient law, while in other member states it is punishable even to import such copies. Is it fair that individuals in Denmark can own copies, when in some countries – such a France – it is punishable by law to even cross the border with a fake watch? Importing fake designer furniture into France can cost you a fine of up to EUR 300.000 or even a three year stay in prison.
With such extremes in copyright protection with France and Italy at one end of the scale and the UK at the other, it seems improbable that the laws on copyright will be harmonized anytime soon. For now, all we can hope for is that the UK enacts the suggested provision and sets up a solid system for enforcing it too.
Mette Bender, Attorney at Law