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Copyright aims at providing protection to authors (writers, artists, music composers, etc.) on their creations. Such creations are usually designated as “works”.

Topics covered under Copyright

Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to, literary works such as novels, poems and plays; reference works such as encyclopedias and dictionaries; databases; newspaper articles; films and TV programs; musical compositions; choreography; artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures; architecture; and advertisements, maps and technical drawings. Copyright also protects computer programs.
Copyright does not however extend to ideas, but only to the expression of thoughts. For example, the idea of taking a picture of a sunset is not protected by copyright. Therefore, anyone may take such a picture. But a particular picture of a sunset taken by a photographer may be protected by copyright. In such a case, if someone else makes copies of the photograph, and starts selling them without the consent of the photographer, that person would be violating the photographer’s rights.

Protection accomplished automatically

Copyright protection is obtained automatically without any need for registration or other formalities. A work enjoys protection by copyright as soon as it is created.

However, many countries provide for a national system of optional registration and deposit of works. These systems facilitate, for example, questions involving disputes over ownership or creation, financing transactions, sales, assignments and transfers of rights.

Types of rights provided by Copyright

There are two types of rights under copyright:

(a) Economic rights, which allow the owner to derive financial reward from the use and exploitation of the work; and

(b) Moral rights, which highlight the personal link existing between the author and the work.

Economic rights covered by copyright

Under economic rights, the creators of a work can use their work as they see fit. They can also authorize or prohibit the following acts- in relation to a work:

- Reproduction in various forms, for example in a printed publication or by recording the work in cassettes, compact disks or videodiscs, or by storing it in computer memories;

- Distribution, for example through sale to the public of copies of the work;

- Public performance, for example by performing music during a concert, or a play on stage;

- Broadcasting and communication to the public, by radio or T.V, cable or satellite;

- Translation into other languages;

- Adaptation, for example by converting a novel or a play into a screenplay for a film;

Recent international developments also allow for works to be protected in the context of the Internet. The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), concluded in 1996, addresses the challenges posed by today’s digital technology, thus ensuring that copyright owners will be adequately and effectively protected when their works are disseminated through new technology and communications systems such as the Internet.

Moral rights covered by copyright

Under moral rights, the author may claim:

- The right to have authorship recognized on the work. That is basically the right of the creator to have his or her name mentioned as the author, in particular when the work is used.

- The right to integrity of the work, that is the right to object to the work being modified, or being used in contexts that may cause harm to the reputation or honor of the author.

Exploitation of economic rights

Many creative works protected by copyright require financial investment and professional skills for their production and further dissemination and mass distribution. Activities such as book publishing, sound recording or film producing are usually undertaken by specialized business organizations or companies, and not directly by the authors. Usually, authors and creators transfer their rights to these companies by way of contractual agreements, in return for compensation. The compensation may take different forms, such as lump sum payments, or royalties based on a percentage of revenues generated by the work.
Many authors do not have the ability or the means to manage their rights themselves. They often resort to collective management organizations or societies which provide for their members, the benefits of the organization’s administrative and legal expertise and efficiency in collecting, managing and disbursing royalties. These royalties are obtained
from the national and international use of a member’s work on a large scale, by, for example, broadcasting organizations, discotheques, restaurants, libraries, universities and schools.

Term of copyright

Copyright has a time limit: it usually lasts for the life of the author and 50 years after his death. The Berne Convention has established this rule, which is shared by the majority of countries, for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Once the term has expired, the work is in the “public domain”. Thereafter, everybody will be free to use the work, without obtaining a specific authorization from the copyright owner. However, the Berne Convention allows providing for a longer period. In order to know what period of protection applies to a work in a particular country, it is advisable to read the national copyright legislation of that country.

Extent to which someone else’s work can be used without getting permission

Copyright is subject to limitations and exceptions, which take into account social, educational and other public policy considerations. International treaties, as well as national laws, allow to freely use limited portions of a work for certain purposes, such as news reporting, or making quotations in a way compatible with fair practices, or by way of illustration for teaching.
Such cases of free use may vary from country to country and it is advisable to revert to the national law of that country, in order to verify whether advantage can be taken of such a possibility.

Need to protect copyright

Copyright contributes to human creativity by giving creators incentives in the form of recognition and fair economic rewards. Under this system of rights, creators are assured that their works can be disseminated without fear of unauthorized copying or piracy. This in turn helps increase access to the works and enhances the enjoyment of culture, knowledge, and entertainment all over the world.

Related rights provide protection to the following persons or organizations:

- Performers (actors, musicians, singers, dancers, or generally people who perform), in their performances;

- Producers of sound recordings (for example, cassette recordings and compact discs) in their recordings; and

- Broadcasting organizations, in their radio and television programs.

Sometimes, these rights are also referred to as neighboring rights.

Distinction between related rights and copyright

Copyright and related rights protect different people. Copyright protects authors of works. For example, in the case of a song, copyright protects the composer of the music and the writer of the words.
In the same example, related rights would apply to:

- The musicians and the singer, who performs the song,

- The producer of the sound recording (called also phonogram) in which the song is included, and

- The organization that broadcasts a program containing the song.

Rights granted to the beneficiaries of related rights

National laws differ as to the extent of rights that are provided to performers, producers of sound recordings or broadcasting organizations.
Different international treaties address this issue, such as the Rome Convention, the TRIPS Agreement, as well as the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).
Performers, in general, enjoy economic rights to prevent fixation, broadcasting and communication to the public of their live performances. Some national laws as well as the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) grant them also rights of reproduction, distribution and rental of their performances fixed in phonograms, as well as moral rights to prevent unreasonable omission of their name, or to object to modifications to their performances included in a sound recording, if such modifications are likely to harm their reputation.
Producers of sound recordings (also called phonograms) enjoy mainly the right to authorize or prohibit the reproduction and distribution of their sound recordings by others.
Furthermore, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) ensures that producers of phonograms, as well as performers of works contained therein, are adequately and effectively protected when the sound recordings are disseminated through new technology and communications systems, such as the Internet.
Broadcasting organizations are provided the rights to authorize or prohibit re-broadcasting, fixation and reproduction of their broadcasts.
Related rights are subject to the same exceptions as for copyright, which would allow anyone to make free use of the performances, sound recordings or broadcasts for certain specific purposes, such as quotations, and news reporting.

Need to protect related rights

Performers are protected by reason of their creative contribution.Producers of sound recordings deserve protection because of the creative input as well as technical and financial resources needed to bring the recording to the public. Likewise broadcasting organizations have a justified interest in protecting their technical and organizational skill in programs from acts of piracy.