“Buy your design classic now – it’s about to rocket in price”

At least if you’re in Britain or Europe: “Mid-century design classics, such as Charles Eames chairs, Eileen Gray tables and Arco lamps are set to rocket in price [in Britain and Europe], following EU regulations which came into force this week that extend the copyright on furniture from 25 years to 70 years after the death of a designer.” Low-cost knockoffs of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, for example, will be banned until 2039, 70 years after his 1969 death. [The Guardian] Alex Tabarrok has some thoughts on why consumers might rightly be seen as getting the short end, and notes this (via Daily Mail): “Companies which publish design books may have to get numerous licences to reproduce photos because designs have come under copyright.”


  • Consumers who buy fakes are the ones that get the “short end” as you put it. Authentic Eames chairs come with guarantees, and are maximized for years and years of service and performance. Fakers copy the “look” but offer poor quality at inflated prices. Those who buy fakes are overpaying for inferior goods.

    • That could very well be, but if consumers are being fooled by the knockoffs into thinking they’re the real thing, that should be a matter of trademark, not copyright. If we try to use copyright to solve a trademark problem, we’ll just run into the same issue again in 2039 when the extended copyright expires. What are we going to do, retroactively extend copyright *again*? Are we going to just make it permanent so that anything made after 1910 or so will never ever be in the public domain?

    • But it isn’t necessarily the case that other manufacturers who use the same design are deceiving anyone or producing an inferior product. Furthermore, prohibition of use of the same design is not necessary to prevent inferior workmanship and materials or fakery. Existing legislation forbids fraud and misidentification of goods.

  • “Companies which publish design books may have to get numerous licences to reproduce photos because designs have come under copyright.”

    So, how does this square with the “rights” of photographers, painters or sketch artists to practice their art? If I take one of these snobby chairs, lamps, etc and light them in a unique way, or compose them in a dramatic landscape and take a few snaps (or, shock horror, put brush to canvas or charcoal to paper), aren’t I the one who owns the copyright to that work? Oh, and perish the thought if there’s a model in there, since they’ll own some of the right as well, won’t they?

    What’s next? Architects claiming copyright in the “design” of buildings (to include colors)? Fashion Designers (sorry, I have the copyright for all black dresses….buwhahahahahaha!!!!!!!)?

    In these types of cases, what’s to distinguish a copyright chair, shall we say, from a close looking, but otherwise original design? How much to I have to change the shape of a chair leg? Leg angle / splay? Chair back? Color scheme? Wood type? Wood finish? Sculpting of the chair bottom? What if I can show the so called copyright chair has elements of previous design?

    At least with books, its easy to tell if someone is stealing the words – compare and contrast side by side. It’s either the same or isn’t.

    Yeah, the answer on this is easy – no copyright. True masters of this type work will have trade secrets of how they get the desirable look and / or the cachet of their name will suffice to make the sale to discerning buyers who use this stuff as signals of wealth and / or taste.

    Oh, and Daniel: Why shouldn’t I be able to take a picture of a silly chair to my local Master Carpenter and have one made? To be blunt, I’d trust the Norm Abramses of the world to fabricate superior quality. It would be a “knock off”, but I’d argue, certainly not an inferior quality one.