theguardian.com just published a very interesting news article last Friday: Buy Your Design Classic Now – It’s About to Rocket in Price. Besides having great skill in creating a captivating headline, Rebecca Smithers (the author), highlighted a critical change in European copyright laws that extend their duration from 25 to 70 years after they death of the designer. This ruling can only be good for business.
Many of the famous and iconic furniture pieces that you’ve seen in the world (and this blog) held copyright’s in the European Union. Unfortunately most of these designers have passed on in the 1980s which has led to a glut of knockoffs in this millennia. The article sites that there is an estimated 54 Chinese factories just producing Eames reproductions! With only one licensed fabricator and a few sales outlets you could get a roughly $5,000 USD lounge chair for a mere tenth of that price on the reproduction market.
David Woods, a copyright laywer with solicitors Pinsent Masons, said the changes were intended to bring copyright laws governing furniture into line with those covering literature and music, where there have been many high-profile court challenges.
Now I will have to disagree that this will cause prices to skyrocket for the licensed pieces. You just simply will find it harder to purchase a cheap knockoff. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- A 1956 Eames Lounge Chair (unknown configuration) had a list price of $310;
- Using the US Inflation Calculator we can compute that into today’s dollar with a value of $2,747.12 or a 786% increase;
- Herman Miller lists the chair today for $4,935;
- Modern In Designs sells a terrible knockoff for a mere $895.
My humble point here is to not be fooled by a headline. Prices won’t skyrocket, you’ll just have to pay full price for a quality product.
As you can see, the market is all over the place in the furniture world. That’s partly why I’ve taken some pains to ensure my products will “hopefully” be priced correctly. What I do think this ruling means for me (and other makers) is a chance for a more competitive playing field. I don’t really want to sell $5,000 chairs nor do I care to compete with $100 chairs from China. I know everyone has a budget and staying in that budget is important. That’s where Raum fits in – budget priced furniture at designer build specs. Hopefully now folks will consider our not-so-legendary designs when shopping for pieces in the sub $1,000 range. And if you’re looking for iconic pieces? Thankfully these new laws will deliver rewards to the living families or business owners who are still meticulously crafting those pieces.
I think this ruling will be good for business all over – except those producing tepid knockoffs.