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Guide to the copyright
1) What is copyright?
Copyright within Intellectual Property
Intellectual Property protects different types of intellectual creations.
It is usually divided into literary and artistic property and industrial property.
Literary and artistic property has to do mainly with copyright.
Industrial property has to do mainly with trade mark law, designs and patent law.
Patent law protects new inventions, whereas trademark law protects signs used in commerce to distinguish the origin of goods or services.
Design law protects the aesthetic aspect of an article.
Copyright, a brief overview
By virtue of copyright, the author of an intellectual creation enjoys some rights that enable him to control the use of his work.
To find a balance between the rights of the creators and those of the public, an intellectual creation is only protected by copyright insofar as it meets some legal requirements. Furthermore, copyright protection is limited in time and by some exceptions.
2) What is protected by copyright?
Copyright protects intellectual creations insofar they are original and expressed in a particular form.
Two conditions must therefore be distinguished: expression in a particular form and originality.
Expression in a particular form
Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression in a particular creation.
This requirement enables the reconciliation of the interests of both creators and society, by preserving the free movement of ideas.
- The idea to realise a guide explaining the main principles of copyright cannot be protected by copyright.The expression of this idea in the particular form of the guide you are now consulting can be protected by copyright.
- The idea of wrapping civil engineering structures is not protected by copyright.The reproduction on a postcard of the Paris Pont-Neuf wrapped by Christo requires the prior consent of the American artist.The wrapping of another civil engineering structure does not require Christo's consent since, in this latter case, only the idea of wrapping is re-used.
OriginalityCopyright protects works insofar as they are original.
A work is original if it is marked by the personality of its creator.
This supposes that the creator has played a decisive role in the determination of the form of the work.
There are no precise criteria to assess the originality of a creation.
In practice, one must analyse the creator’s role in the creation process.
If the form of the work is determined solely by external factors (technical requirements, instructions of a third party...), it is not the expression from the creator's personality and therefore not original.
Courts are generally very favourable to creators and almost all works are considered original.
The combination of these protection requirements enables the scope of copyright to cover a very broad range of creations.
May be protected by copyright :
software (Directive 91/250/CEE);
databases (Directive 96/9/CEE);
This list is non-exhaustive since new forms of expression are always created.
N.B.: concerning exploitation of copyright on the Internet, see the guide "Copyright and Internet".
3) What cannot be protected by copyright?
Some types of creations are not protected by copyright.
Some creations do not meet copyright protection requirements:
information as itself;
works which are not original;
Other creations can no longer enjoy copyright protection since their protection term has expired (in the EU, 70 years after the death of the author).
Finally, some creations are outside the scope of copyright. This is often the case for legal texts (law provisions) or court decisions.