Moral rights are perpetual. As to the economic rights, and according to the Berne Convention, which has been ratified by 176 countries including all EU Member States, the period of protection granted to the copyright owner shall be the life of the author and a certain number of years (typically 50 years) after his/her death.
At the European level, Directive 2009/24 seeks to harmonise Member States’ legislation in the field of legal protection of computer programs by defining a minimum level of protection. Member States protect computer software as such by copyright, by analogy to the protection given to literary works within the meaning of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
Copyright is infringed when a person deals with a ‘substantial part’ of a copyright-protected work without the copyright owner’s authorisation where such dealing is not covered by an exception. It is important to take into consideration that dealing with a ‘substantial part’ of a copyright-protected work does not necessarily refer to using a large amount of the work.
There are a number of exceptions in copyright law, which allow limited uses of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner. Normally permission is not needed if using less than a substantial part of a copyright protected work.
The following list of exceptions is not exhaustive and particular care should be taken if intending to rely on an exception:
- non-commercial research and private study;
- criticism, review and reporting current events;
Registered copyright does not refer to a different type of intellectual property right, but to copyright that has been registered under the voluntary system of registration. Copyright is indeed an automatic right that does not depend on registration. Nevertheless, in some countries (e.g. Belgium), national laws allow registration of artistic/literary works. This voluntary system of registration is generally aimed at identifying the work and serving as evidence in court in litigation disputes (e.g.
Copyright is essentially a private right. The copyright owner must decide how best to exploit the copyright work – to sell it, license it (exclusively or non-exclusively); an assignment transfers the full (all economic rights) or partial (some economic rights) ownership.
These options often involve contractual agreements, which may be just as important as the rights provided by copyright law.
Copyright protects works such as:
- literary works- novels, song lyrics, newspaper articles;
- computer programs, some types of databases;
- dramatic works- dance or mime;
- musical works;
- artistic works- paintings, photographs, sculptures, architectural designs, technical drawings, diagrams, maps, logos;
- layouts or typographical arrangements;
- recordings of a work - recorded music performances;
- broadcasts of a work.
The requirements to be satisfied for a work to be considered as jointly created (joint authorship) are generally the following:
- the work has to be produced through the process of collaboration;
- each of the authors must contribute to the making of the work;
- the respective contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other(s).
Generally in the EU, copyright is owned by the natural person who creates the work. In most EU countries, the author or co-authors of a work are the first owners or co-owners of the copyright.
However, the IP systems in the EU currently vary between Member States that maintain a system of institutional ownership, and those which maintain a system of professor’s privilege (inventor ownership).
After the period of copyright protection has expired, a work becomes available for use without permission from the copyright owner; it is said to be "in the public domain." Most works enter the public domain because their copyrights have expired.