Copyright is largely harmonised internationally by a number of treaties to which the UK is signatory. This means that much of the copyright framework in the UK is not dependent on membership of the EU and will remain intact when we leave.
However, some UK copyright law is derived from the EU copyright framework; hence there are references in UK law to the “EU”, the “EEA”, and “Member States”. Some of these references arise from the UK’s implementation of certain EU cross-border copyright mechanisms. These are unique to the EU and provide reciprocal protections and benefits between Member States, covering areas such as cross-border portability of online content services, sui generis database rights, and copyright clearance for satellite broadcasting.
To ensure UK copyright law functions properly if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Government introduced The Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. 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 exit 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. Guidance for stakeholders has been published alongside this.
Although the UK is leaving the EU, UK and EU copyright works (e.g. books, films and music) will continue to be protected in the EU and UK respectively because of the international treaties on copyright (e.g. the Berne Convention and the TRIPS Agreement), which require all treaty countries to protect works originating in any other treaty country to a minimum standard. Our participation in these treaties does not depend on our membership of the EU.