Designer copyright law - reselling items

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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AndrewH
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Designer copyright law - reselling items

Post by AndrewH » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:52 am

Hi,

I bought some Charles Eames style chairs in late 2016. I now realise this was in an amnesty period whilst UK Copyright Law was brought in line with the EU, and copyright extended to 70 years after the death of the designer.

So, when I bought these it was "OK", but now it isn't (never mind the fact that they are still freely available from the online retailer I bought them from).

I am now trying to resell them (i.e. get rid of 4 secondhand chairs personally - not resell as a business) on a well known auction site and have been served with a VeRO notice by the auction site on behalf of the rights holder. Am I really unable to sell these now?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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AndyJ
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Re: Designer copyright law - reselling items

Post by AndyJ » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:48 am

Hi Andrew,

That's a really interesting question. The law is silent on what should happen in a case such as yours*. You bought the chairs legally and continuing to own them after the change in the law does not have any legal consequences, but 'dealing in' (ie selling or advertising them for sale) them now would make them infringing articles, notwithstanding the fact that you wish to sell them privately and not as part of a business.
I feel sure that Parliament did not intend for this to be the consequence of the change in the law, but on the face of it, it does appear that the trustees of Charles Eames's works are justified in taking this action, even though no such protection applies in his own country.

As you say, it is bizarre that there are traders in the UK and online who continue to openly sell products such as this (eg here).

* Something similar occurs with copies of articles such as music CDs etc made for personal use under the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/2361. These Regulations were later found to be contrary to EU law and were rescinded, meaning that owners of such copies are now possibly liable for infringment. However the difference between the two situations is that it was never legal to sell a copy made for private use.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

ATMOSBOB
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Re: Designer copyright law - reselling items

Post by ATMOSBOB » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:03 pm

Are you sure it is copyright that is the issue here. From memory I think it is Trade Mark law that they will be using. Their argument is that the copies used inferior materials which should not be associated with their brand name. (I was told this while NOT sitting on an original. The owner wouldn't let me sit on one wearing studded jeans!)

AndrewH
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Re: Designer copyright law - reselling items

Post by AndrewH » Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:17 am

Thanks for your replies. This is the explanation I received:

"Vitra is owner of the rights for Europe on furniture and items designed by Charles and Ray Eames, including the Eames Plastic Chairs.

This product is protected by copyright and any offering of unauthorized copies infringes Vitra’s copyrights, which was the reason for the removal of your listing.

Please note that copyright protection is granted for the physical appearance of the work, which is protected irrespective of the fact how you advertise or describe your offer. For this reason it does not matter if you mention Vitra in your offer or describe your offer as “replica“ or “look alike”. "

It is bizarre that they are stopping me reselling 4 chairs whilst there are retail outlets such as here, which I find hard to believe have paid a licence at the price they are selling these chairs.

There are even several examples of items described as "Charles Eames style" or "Charles Eames inspired" advertised in eBay UK's Charles Eames specialist section.

The other thing I find extremely irritating is that there is absolutely no recourse for a VeRO notice except to appeal to the rights holder who has served the notice in the first place. A bit like being able to appeal to the prosecution in a court case. eBay has a VeRO counter notice system, but this is only for the US.

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