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What exactly is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive right of the creator of a work – for example, a book, music, a scientific publication or a work of art – to publish and to reproduce it. This copyright rests with the creator. The creator has the sole right to exploit the work and may impose conditions on those who wish to use or reproduce the work in any way.

Copyright is an unregistered right

Copyright law protects the author or the creator of a work. The author has designed and developed an idea and so has the right to decide what is done with the work. To this end, the author may, for example, use the copyright symbol (©) to denote their ownership of the work. Copyright is special in the sense that it is an unregistered right. This means that there is no procedure for a creator to be entered in a register as its owner. All that matters is that the work is actually produced in a tangible form. For this reason, ideas, methods, theories and thoughts do not fall within the scope of copyright.

Protecting Intellectual Property and guaranteeing payment

The principle of copyright law is to protect creation as a form of Intellectual Property and to guarantee payment and/or credit for its creator if it is used. After all, if someone receives payment for his or her work, they then have the opportunity to reinvest in the development of new creative ideas. In general, copyright is an exclusive right and exists up until 70 years after the death of the creator. After that time, in principle, others are able to use the work without requesting permission from its creator.

Copyright law gives the creator of a work a number of important rights:

The right to exploitation:

Copyright law gives the creator a monopoly to publish and use their work. This provides the creator with income. Exploitation can take place in many ways; for example, in a book, a film screening, a CD, radio, a TV broadcast or an exhibition.

The personality right:

Copyright also gives the creator a so-called personality right in most European jurisdictions. This gives creators the opportunity to object if others harm their work, violate it or put it on the market under a different name or their own name. Using the personality right, copyright owners can also offer resistance more easily if a third party makes changes to their work.

The portrait right:

A portrait right in itself is not a form of copyright, but it is regulated by copyright law. It protects the image of a person portrayed in a work. If someone portrayed is clearly recognisable, they are entitled to oppose it. This is possible if they possess a marketable popularity or if the publication of the portrait violates their right to privacy. This means, for example, that when a photographer takes a picture of someone, the portrait right belongs to the person depicted and the copyright to the photographer.

Would you like to know more about copyright?

Copyright is a special area of expertise within Intellectual Property law. The fact that you cannot officially register copyright has implications both for the means of protecting it and the action against infringement. A Novagraaf specialist will be happy to help with any questions you may have concerning copyright. Please contact us using the contact form at the top right of this page.