Changes to copyright law after Brexit

This guidance covers the impacts on UK right holders, businesses, cultural heritage institutions and consumers. It is not legal advice.

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This guidance is not legal advice. You should get legal advice where you have specific questions relating to the law.

Most UK copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in the EU and the UK because of the UK’s 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 Brexit.

Cross-border arrangements unique to EEA countries

Some cross-border arrangements in copyright law are unique to the EEA. They provide additional reciprocal protections between member states and facilitate the use of copyright content in some cross-border services, such as satellite broadcasting and online content services. These arrangements will no longer apply to the UK after Brexit.

The government has amended the UK legislation that implements these arrangements so that they either operate on a purely domestic basis or are brought to an end.

Artist’s resale right

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 Brexit. This is in accordance with the Berne Convention. No changes are being made to the calculation of royalty payments.

Artist 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 Artist’s Resale Right Regulations 2006. The regulations reflect the UK’s position outside the EU, while continuing to provide the right to foreign nationals on a reciprocal basis.

Sui generis database rights

Portability of online content services

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 Brexit, 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 Brexit.

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 Brexit.

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.

Collective rights management

Use of EU satellite decoders

Legislative background to these changes

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 UK’s implementation of EU cross-border copyright arrangements. These arrangements are unique to the EU and EEA and provide reciprocal protections and benefits between member states.

To make sure UK copyright law functions properly if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, we have introduced the Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 under the powers of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

This removes or corrects references to the EU, EEA, or member states in UK copyright legislation to preserve the effect of UK law where possible.

For reciprocal cross-border mechanisms where continuing to extend provisions to the EU on a unilateral basis after Brexit would adversely affect those in the UK, we are limiting the mechanisms to operate on a purely domestic basis or bringing them to an end, as appropriate.

Learn more about intellectual property by visiting the IPO website.

Published 18 October 2019