Copyright and copyright protection

Copyright is a human right. On the one hand it protects the moral and intellectual relationship of the author to their work, while on the other it gives them the right to decide on the exploitation of their works.

That both makes copyright a moral right, safeguarding the identity of the work and the intellectual and moral interests of the author, and serves as the “employment law for creatives”, helping to secure a reasonable remuneration for the use of the work.

Copyright protection arises upon the completion of the work – no further formalities such as registration or lodgement need to be observed. In principle, the author is protected by copyright law. Third parties such as clients or employers can only acquire rights to use the work.

Copyright ends 70 years after the death of the author. Thereafter a work enters the “public domain”, i.e. it can be exploited by anyone. Nevertheless, there are some not uncommon exceptions that have to be noted. Sometimes, for instance, what seems one work is actually two. Anyone wanting to use a photograph of a work by Michelangelo, for example, does not need to bother about the rights from the heirs of Michelangelo, but probably will need to acquire the rights from the photographer who took the photograph. If the photograph is of a protected work, though, both rights must be clarified.

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