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Consumers’ FAQs on copyright: what does copyright and related rights mean and cover?

There has been published a very useful guide for consumers and for anyone who is curious about copyright. This guide explains different things, relating to IP rights, in simple way. The project has been commissioned by the European Union intellectual property office.

The Guide aims to give ‘answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) average consumers have in relation to copyright for all twenty-eight EU Member States.’ The present Summary Report highlights the convergences and differences in national copyright laws in relation to the 15 consumer questions.

The terms ‘copyright’ or ‘author’s rights’ refer to a bundle of rights of a pecuniary and nonpecuniary nature that are granted to authors of original works. In addition, certain subject matter related to original works may be protected by ‘neighbouring rights’ or ‘related rights’. Traditionally, Member States have granted protection to authors or works based on different theoretical justifications. Different rationales have entailed differences, notably regarding the scope of protection.

Member States generally recognise a difference between ‘copyright’ and ‘related rights’. Many civil law countries prefer to speak of ‘author’s rights’ instead of ‘copyright’. This denomination refers to the idea that traditionally, these systems have focused on the author, namely, the physical person who created the work. In this perspective, the author’s economic interests and his or her personal relation to the work must foremost be protected. Typical examples are France and Germany; but most jurisdictions in southern and eastern Europe as well as Belgium and Luxembourg are part of the author’s right tradition.

Beneficiaries of ‘copyright’ are authors of original works in the literary, scientific or artistic field, such as musical compositions, paintings, photographs, drawings, or novels and other writings, but also of, for example, computer programs. ‘Related rights’ or ‘neighbouring’ rights are rights that may protect ‘selected achievements in the cultural field that are not authors’ works, but are considered an artistic achievement or an (technical, financial or organisational) investment that is sufficiently important for culture to be protected (and may vest in legal persons). Most often, these rights are ‘related’ to copyright in that they are dependent on the existence of a work protected by copyright. For example, the lyrics and the composition of a song may be protected by copyright; the performance of that song by someone as well as the sound recording may be protected by a related right.

All Member States provide for both economic and moral rights for authors of copyrighted works. Economic rights may consist in both exclusive rights and rights to remuneration. Exclusive rights give the author control over certain acts related to his or her work. The exact definition and scope of exclusive rights may vary from country to country; but EU Member States protect at least the rights to reproduction (i.e. to copy), to dissemination/distribution and to communication to the public/making available of the work to the public (e.g. uploading a work to the internet). Other rights, such as translation or adaptation may also be protected.

Rights to remuneration do not entail control, but give the author a claim for remuneration or compensation when the work is used. Type and scope of remuneration rights vary across the EU. Moral rights protect the author’s personal or intellectual relation to his or her work. Scope and duration of moral rights vary within the EU; Member States at least protect the right to be named as an author (paternity right), and the right to integrity of the work. The scope of the integrity right is not the same in all EU counties. In many Member States, an author cannot waive his or her moral rights.

The differences may, in a simplified perspective, be explained as follows: ‘The civil law author’s rights tradition is centred around the author: the author is always a natural person who created the work and the author is granted not only pecuniary rights, but also moral rights to ensure respect to his work and his name. Differently, the common law copyright system protects the interests of those who invested and organised creation of the work, therefore, hereby copyright protects labour and investment, while author’s moral rights […] [enjoy lower protection and] may be easily waived or transferred […]”.