Protecting Copyright in the UK and EU

Guidance on UK and EU copyright protection for right holders and users including business, cultural heritage institutions and consumers. It is not legal advice.


Copyright is a national right that each country provides separately. However, copyright is largely harmonised internationally by a number of treaties. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU builds on these international norms and maintains high standards of copyright protection between the UK and EU.

A substantial part of UK copyright law was derived from the EU’s legislation when the UK was a member state. Because of this, there were references in UK law to the EU, the EEA, and member states.

The Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019), passed under the powers of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, came into force on 1 January 2021. These regulations removed or corrected references to the EU, EEA, or member states in UK copyright legislation and preserved the effect of UK law where possible.

The UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and EU reaffirmed the majority of the benefits and protections UK copyright owners enjoyed in the EU. However, a small number of cross-border arrangements that are unique to the EU and EEA have now come to an end.

The majority of UK and EU copyright works (such as books, films and music) enjoy mutual protection in each other’s territories because they participate in the international treaties on copyright and the UK/EU TCA.

This applies to works made before and after 1 January 2021.

Sui generis database rights

Portability of online content services

Collective rights management

Artist’s resale right

The Artist’s resale right entitles creators of artistic works to a royalty payment each time their works are sold by an art market professional.

The UK implemented the EU’s Resale Right Directive through the Artist’s Resale Right Regulations 2006. These regulations were amended to reflect the UK’s 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 and those countries. This is in accordance with the Berne Convention and provisions in the UK/EU TCA.

Cable retransmissions of works in the EU

When a copyright work is broadcast between EEA member states and retransmitted by cable in the receiving member state, the copyright holder(s) can only exercise their rights through a collective management organisation.

The UK applies this rule to cable retransmissions of broadcasts from EEA member states. However, some EU member states may no longer apply this rule to broadcasts originating from the UK.

Consequently, 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 certain EEA states
  • may want to seek legal advice to inform their assessment

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

  • made by a national of the UK, EEA or any other 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

Copyright duration for works in the UK and EU are maintained by specific provisions in the UK EU TCA.

Use of EU satellite decoders

Published 30 January 2020