Copyright: The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA )  is the principal codifying copyright statute for the UK. It came into force on 1 August 1989. It has already been amended several times by subsequent statutes and also by various statutory instruments, primarily to give effect to various EC Directives. The Act also creates a number of new intellectual property rights, in particular, moral rights national unregistered design rights and rights in performances. Because of the duration of copyright it is sometimes necessary to consider previous legislation, namely the Copyright Act 1956 and, occasionally, even the Copyright Act 1911.

Structure of the Act
The Act is in 7 parts of which the first deals with copyright. The remaining parts provide for rights in performances, national unregistered design right, registered designs, patent and trade mark agents, patents, restriction of anti-protection devices and other matters. The statute originally had 8 schedules but a new one has been added to provide for licensing of performers’ property rights.

Overview of Part I
Part 1 is by far the longest part of the Act accounting at the time of enactment for 179 of its 306 sections. It is divided into 10 chapters.

Chapter I contains the basic principles, namely:


a definition of copyright, the works in which it can subsist and qualification for subsistence;


the basic requirements for subsistence with respect to each category of copyright work;


first ownership of copyright; and



Chapter II sets out the rights of copyright owners. It distinguishes between primary and secondary infringement and makes detailed provision for each of the infringing acts.

Chapter III (which must be read with Chapter VII on licensing) provides numerous permitted acts some of which are conditional.

Chapter IV introduces the concept of “moral rights” into English law although the right not to have work falsely attributed existed under the 1956 legislation.

Chapter V provides for the assignment, licensing and transfer of copyright.

Chapter VI sets out the civil remedies and criminal penalties for infringement. The latter have recently been increased by the Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002.

Chapter VII regulates licensing schemes offered by collecting societies and provides for the resolution of disputes relating to such schemes by the Copyright Tribunal the constitution, jurisdiction and procedure of which are governed by Chapter VIII.

Chapter IX makes details provision for qualification for copyright protection.

Chapter X provides for Crown and Parliamentary copyright and copyright vesting in certain international organizations.

Subsequent Statutes
Broadcasting Act 1990 adds to the permitted acts and extends the provisions regulating licensing schemes. The Broadcasting Act 1996 prohibits decoding and other equipment for unauthorized reception of TV programmes and further amends the licensing scheme provisions. The 
Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002  increases substantially the penalties for offences under the Act. The Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 provides new exceptions to copyright for the benefit of visually impaired persons. The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 extends the requirement to deposit publications with specified copyright libraries to non-print editions.

Statutory Instruments
Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992 amend the provisions relating to computer thereby clarifying the extent of copyright protection for software and providing various exceptions. The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995 extend the copyright term foartistic, dramatic, literary and musical works from 50 to 70 years from the death of the authorThe Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 1996 provide for rental rights and clarify the law relating to broadcastsThe Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 clarify the protection of databases as well as providing a new database right. The Conditional Access (Unauthorised Decoders) Regulations 2000 amend the provisions relating to decoders. The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 abolish the distinction between broadcasting and cable transmission, create a new communication right, provide a number of new exceptions, protect various technological and rights management measures.   The Intellectual Property (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2006 implement the Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC).

Unofficial Consolidation
The UK Intellectual Property Office publishes an unofficial consolidation of the Act on its website.


About Jane Lambert

I am a barrister specializing in intellectual property, technology, media and entertainment and competition law. I specialize in helping SME (small and medium enterprises) protect and exploit their investment in brands, design, technology and the arts. SME require intellectual property (legal protection for their intellectual assets) at least as much as big business but their limited means restrict the way they can use it. Looking after such clients wisely requires skills and knowledge which have taken me years to learn.
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