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Published: 28 June 2021

Will UK Copyright Be Changing?

When the UK left the European Union at the beginning of the year, the changes to copyright post-Brexit were to be minimal, news which was comforting to many. 

It has recently been revealed, however, that the UK government are now considering changes to copyright functionality – in particular, copyright exhaustion. 

What does this mean? 

Copyright holders retain the exclusive right to sell, produce, and distribute their work.  

This means that they have the opportunity to choose who to sell their work to in order to receive the best deal. 

They can also choose to allow their work to be sold globally, or not. 

Copyright exhaustion is the point at which a creator’s copyright ceases to apply. 

For example, an author might sell their book within the UK and the European Union - this is the ‘first sale.’  

After the first sale, the author cannot then stop the recipients of the book from selling it on within the UK and EU, or the agreed upon region.  

This is the point at which the copyright is ‘exhausted.’ 

The copyright holder can, however, block their work from being resold outside of the agreed-upon regions.  

What are the proposed changes, and what impact might they have? 

Whilst the UK government has yet to outline any specific changes, the news of their deliberation has led many in the creative industries to worry about the outcome. 

Several organisations have grouped together to start the Save Our Books campaign with concern for the possible negative impact on authors and publishers. 

There is a general worry that any future changes to UK copyright could cause losses in both author incomes and finances in the creative industry.  

Copyright came into existence in its first form hundreds of years ago to protect authors’ rights to profit from their work.  

Under the Berne Convention, it lasts for the creator’s lifetime, plus at least 50 years following their death, and ensures that they receive proper remuneration for their work. 

Exported books generate a smaller royalties return than domestic sales, so with the possibility of imported copies overpowering domestic sales revenue, it is no surprise that UK authors have concerns. 

A change in copyright exhaustion could have a devastating impact on creators’ rights to control global sales of their product, resulting in a loss of income. 

This stability of the UK’s copyright is a topic that will no doubt gain traction over the coming weeks, and will have many eagerly awaiting the government’s decision.   

To learn more on the UK government’s post-Brexit copyright consultation, visit the government website


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