Changes to copyright law from 1 January 2021

This guidance covers the impacts on UK right holders and users including businesses, 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 and, in the EU, by a body of EU copyright legislation that builds on the international treaties.

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 are references in UK law to the EU, the EEA, and member states. Some of these are in the UK’s implementation of EU cross-border copyright arrangements. These arrangements apply only within the EU and EEA and provide reciprocal protections and benefits between member states.

To address this issue, we introduced the Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) under the powers of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which comes into force on 1 January 2021.

These regulations remove or correct references to the EU, EEA, or member states in UK copyright legislation and preserve the effect of UK law where possible.

The reciprocal cross-border arrangements will be amended or brought to an end, as appropriate and this guidance explains their status from 1 January 2021.

The majority of UK and EU copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in each other’s territories because of their participation in the international treaties on copyright.

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 from 1 January 2021. This is in accordance with the Berne Convention. No changes are being made to the calculation of royalty payments.

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(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.

From 1 January 2021, member states may no longer apply this rule to broadcasts originating in the UK because it will no longer be a member state.

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

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 protection in the UK will continue to be eligible from 1 January 2021.

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 have been removed from UK law. This will not stop EEA works qualifying for copyright protection in the UK, 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 from 1 January 2021.

References to the EEA have been removed from UK law in this area, which means that the duration for EEA works is calculated in the same way as for non-EEA works. However, as copyright duration is equal across the UK and the EEA, there will be no immediate impact on copyright duration in the UK.

Use of EU satellite decoders

Published 30 January 2020
Last updated 4 January 2021 
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