Replica furniture outlawed in UK. Is this the end of affordable design?

I received a press release from a PR a couple of weeks ago with the title as you see it. “Replica furniture outlawed in UK. Is this the end of affordable design?” Naturally I was intrigued to read what they had to say on the subject, as the title is rather leading. It is passively suggesting that this new law will have a knock effect to affordable design which makes me curious to read the argument.

The company that commissioned the press release is Pash Living state “Pash Living, who have specialised in replica furniture market, now face the prospect of having to reinvent their entire business model.”

A bold statement that this law is putting their livelihood in jeopardy. “A new copyright ruling designed to bring the UK in line with the rest of Europe, was expected to give retailers a number of years to sell off their existing stock. But yesterday they were told they must stop selling by January 28th, 2017, or face prosecution.” Crikey.

Pash Founder, Aaran Hall, said: “The dream of designers like Ray and Charles Eames was to make good design available to everyone. That’s not possible when the license for these products belongs to big business and costs big money. When an original Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair will set you back about £5,000, it’s easy to see why the £450 copy has been so popular.

Our aim is to make great design available to as many people as possible, at an affordable price. We take as much pride in our products as any design house, quality checking every item before it leaves us. We are moving into more original lines as a result of the legislation but our mission will always be to offer the best quality designer furniture at the most competitive price.”

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Image copyright Vitra

However, this bill was first raised in 2012, and later put to the House of Lords in 2013 allowing replica furniture to be sold up until 2020. Most of these companies have made no effort to make changes to their business in the three years since then, holding out until 2020 before they begin to pivot their business models. The decision to bring this forward to 28 July 2016 (with a window to sell stock until 28th January 2017) may escalate the decisions these companies need to make however it is not quite the shock that the press release is suggesting.

According to MailOnline: “The coalition Government’s decision to repeal Section 52 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988, as part of the the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, was expected to be implemented in 2020, to give companies affected time to adapt. However, a legal challenge has forced the Government to fast track it to April 28th this year.”

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’m whole-heartedly against fakes. I wrote a piece about the Tolix chair which has been the most popular post every month ever since I wrote it back in 2013 around the time of Elle Decoration’s Fight the Fakes campaign.

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Image copyright Knoll

But what really caused me to grab my laptop and write a blog post about Pash Living’s press release was a short statement at the bottom of the release which states “Supporters of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill say the companies who pay to license these products should be allowed the exclusive rights to them. Those against it, claim the bill will stifle creativity and that big businesses are taking these products out of the reach of the very people they were designed to serve.”

No explanation has been given by Pash Living as to how this will stifle creativity and I would argue quite the opposite. By producing replica furniture and not paying royalties to designers, you are lining the pockets of a retailer and not a designer. No designer is benefiting from replica furniture sales, and therefore any money they may need to support themselves during design processes is under pressure.

By supporting this bill, we are enabling companies to work with designers as all products will need to be licensed and pay appropriate royalties or fees to designers to continue their creativity.

Those against this bill are supporting no creativity. And if you can sleep at night knowing that then I have no issue, but let’s not all pretend that replica furniture is in some way a good thing. I personally support the bill and Pash Living should be changing their business to support design rather than exploit design.

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Image copyright Fritz Hansen

People took to Twitter with their comments, and in the fairness of giving a full view here are some that grabbed my attention…

Daniel

Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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