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Protection of the work

Can a work be protected through the author’s right on an international level?

First, the protection through the author’s right is automatic in all the States that are part of the Berne Convention (refer to the question: Can the author’s right be registered?). Although the national legislation of each of these States is unique, generally speaking, there exists a high grade of harmony. Consult the national legislations and the treaties on WIPO Lex. As for the States that are not part of the Berne Convention, it is important to remember that the legislation on the author’s right has a territorial nature, which means that it is applied in the country where it was created. That is why, if it is desired to protect a work on an international level, it is essential to comply with the legal requirements of every country in which it is desired to protect the work. See: States that are part of the Bern Convention

What does it mean to “grant a license” on a work and how is it granted?

The owner of the rights on a work can authorize third parties so that they use or exploit it. Those authorizations have the name of “licenses” and may imply, or not, a compensation to the owner of the work. Logically, when negotiating a license agreement, it is recommended to ask for legal assistance.
If you wish to grant licenses on your works to users such as broadcasting organizations, editors, or even recreational institutions, from bars to nightclubs, a good solution could be to join a collective management society. The collective management societies supervise the use of the works on behalf of the creators and are in charge of negotiating licenses and collecting payments. Those organizations are particularly frequent in the field of the musical and literary works where there could exist a huge number of users of the same work and where it could be difficult, for both the users and the owners of the rights, to obtain the specific authorization for each use and to supervise the different uses.

Can a computer program or a mobile application be protected by an author’s right?

To the effect of the author’s right, the computer programs and other types of software are considered literary works. Therefore, they are automatically protected without the necessity of being registered. In some countries, the process of voluntary registration of the computer programs or software may differ from that of other types of works.

Is there any registration or deposit of the author’s right?

There is not any international registration of the protected works by the author’s right that could be consulted. The reason for that is that, by general rule, the protection of the author’s right is automatic and it does not depend on any registration. Anyway, in some countries, there exists a registration or a voluntary deposit of the author’s right and it is suggested to register their work there, which could result to be helpful, for example, in the case of a litigation about the authorship of the work. Although it does not influence the protection by the author’s right, there are countries that demand the deposit of the printed samples published in the respective countries. See the list here: For more information, contact the Argentine Office of the Industrial Property or the Office of Authors’ Rights of your country.

What can be done if a published work has been reproduced without the authorization of its author?

Before taking actions, it is important to evaluate in detail if the reproduction constitutes a real infraction of the author’s right (refer to the question about limitations and exceptions related to the author’s right). If you consider that your rights have been infringed, you must try to identify the responsible person of this act. If that is not possible or it is not convenient to solve the problem through informal means, a legal compensation can be claimed before a court or any other authority. In general, it is possible to sue before a civil court to get financial compensation and, also, to prevent the infraction from keeping on growing. Anyway, before doing that, it is recommended, and even mandatory in some States, to first send an official notice to the possible infractor asking for their acts to be finished or asking them for compensation. It can also happen that the unauthorized reproduction constitutes a piracy crime of the author’s right. In that case, a criminal report can be presented before the police, prosecutor’s office or any other competent authority, based on the applicable local legislation. In some cases, the mechanisms of extrajudicial solution of controversies (like the settlement, arbitration, expert’s decisions, imparcial evaluation, etc) can be a valid option compared to the judicial proceedings, and they can turn to be the easiest, fastest and most economical means. If the non authorized reproduction of the work has been exposed on the Internet, that can be notified to the Internet service Supplier and it can be asked from it to prohibit the access to an illegal copy. This proceeding is known as “notice and withdrawal”. If you are a member of a collective management organization, it is frequently enough to ask that organization to take the necessary measures. Otherwise, you have to manage to intervene and protect your rights. In these cases, it is recommended to consult a lawyer who acts on the affected person’s name.

How are the works protected by the author’s right managed? What are the organizations of collective management?

The collective management societies supervise the use of the works on behalf of the creators and are in charge of negotiating licenses and collecting payments. Those organizations are particularly frequent in the field of the musical and literary works where there could exist a huge number of users of the same work and where it could be difficult, for both the users and the owners of the rights, to obtain the specific authorization for each use and to supervise the different uses.

Where can I consult the legislation of the author’s right of a country?

WIPO Lex offers easy access to the legislation of the intellectual property of a wide range of countries and regions and, also, to the treaties about intellectual property. Search here the collections of WIPO Lex here A huge number of national and regional offices of intellectual property have websites where the information about national and regional legislations is provided. For more information, consult a list of links: See: National and regional offices of intellectual property.

Frequently asked questions about the Author’s Right

What is the author’s right?

In the legal terminology, the expression “author’s right” is used to describe the rights of the creators about their literary and artistic works. The works include: books, music, paintings, sculptures and movies. Also, the computing programs, data basis, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

What can the author’s right protect?

The legislation cannot contain an exhaustive list of the works the author’s right protect but, in general terms, among the works that are protected by the author’s right worldwide, we have the following:

  • Literary works like novels, poems, escenic representations, reference works, press articles;
  • computing works and data basis;
  • movies, musical compositions and choreographies;
  • artistic works such as pictures, drawings, photografies and sculptures;
  • architecture; and
  • announcements, maps and technical drawings.
The protection of the author’s right covers the expressions but not the ideas, proceedings, operation methods of mathematical concepts themselves. The author’s right may protect, or not, elements such as titles, slogans or logotypes, depending whether the authorship of the work is enough or not.

What rights are considered in the framework of the author's right? What rights does the author of a work have?

The author’s right covers two types of rights:

  • the patrimonial rights, which allow the owner of the rights to get financial compensation for the use of their works by third parties; and
  • the moral rights, which protect the non patrimonial interests of the author.
In most of the cases, in the legislation of the author’s right, it is established that the owner of the rights has the patrimonial right to authorize or to prohibit certain uses of their work or, in some cases, to receive a compensation for the use if it (for instance, through a collective management?). The owner of the patrimonial rights of a work can prohibit or authorize: the reproduction of his work in different ways, like the printed publication or the resounding recording;
  • the public interpretation or execution, for example, in one dramatic or musical work;
  • the recording of a work, for example, as compact disks or DVD;
  • the broadcasting of the work through radio, TV or satellite;
  • the translation of the work into other languages; and
  • the adaptation of the work, like the case of a novel adapted for a script.
Among the examples of the moral rights that are universally recognized, are the right to claim the authorship of the work and the right to be against the modification of the work that could be detrimental to the reputation of the creator.

What is the collective management of the author’s right?

By collective management, it is understood the exercise of the author’s right and the related rights through organizations that act on the rights’ owners’ behalf to work for their interests. For instance, a dramastic can authorize their work to be on the scene under certain previously set conditions, or a musician can authorize the recording of their work in a compact disk. But it would be impossible for the dramastic, the musicians, and the screenwriters and directors of the audiovisual work to contact every theater, radio station, TV channel or TTOs platform - which transmits via Internet - that wanted to use the work to negotiate license agreements through which that use is authorized, or, in the case of the audiovisual works, it would be impossible to create agreements for the payment of the author’s right in those countries. Here is where the collective rights and the collective management organizations intervene.

Does the author’s right have to be registered?

In most of the countries, according to the Berne Convention, the protection of the author’s right is obtained automatically without the necessity of registration or other limits. However, in most of the countries, there exists a registration system and a deposit of works; this system makes it easier when clarifying controversies related to the ownership or creation, financial transactions, sales and transfers of right. What is it understood by “work”? In the context of the author’s right, the word “work” is used to refer to a wide range of intellectual creations, from the novels to the architectonic works, going through the computing programs, etc.

What is the meaning of the symbol ©? Shall I incorporate it to my work?

Years ago, there were countries with a legislation that set that the owner of the author’s right had to comply with certain formalities to receive protection through the author’s right. One of those formalities was to include an indication of the author’s right, the symbol ©. Nowadays, a few countries set formalities when talking about the author’s right and, thus, the use of this type of symbols has stopped to be a legal requirement. Anyway, many owners of author’s rights keep on including it as a very visible way of highlighting that the work is protected by an author’s right and that all the rights are reserved, different from a less restrictive license.

How much does the protection of the author’s right last?

The patrimonial rights have a specific duration which may be different according to the national legislation. In the States that are part of the Berne Convention, the minimum period is 50 years counted from the death of the work’s creator. In some legislations, there are longer periods of protection.

​Using the third parties’ works

Whom does the author’s right of a work belong to? If a work is created as an employee, in the context of a work relationship, whom does the author’s right belong to?

In general, the owner of the author’s right of a work is the original creator or the author of it. Anyway, there are exceptions for this regulation. In some countries, for instance, the patrimonial rights derived from a work protected by an author’s right belong, from the beginning, to the person/organization the creator appoints. In other countries (USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia), the patrimonial rights are transferred automatically to the employer.

Is it necessary to obtain authorization to use a work protected by the author’s right?

In general, to use a protected work, it is necessary to have an authorization (whether a license or a transfer of rights). For certain uses, the authorization is received from an organization of collective management instead of getting it directly from the owner of the right, for example, for an authorization to use a song in a public concert. It is not necessary to obtain any authorization of a protected work if we have these two circumstances: There are limitations and exceptions on a national level that allow to use the work. The works are at the disposal of the public under specific conditions or licenses that allow certain uses. When using these works, it is important to pay attention to the specific conditions of the licenses in order to know exactly what the owner of the rights allows. There are also licenses of common use like the Creative Commons license, the MIT license, the public Mozilla license and many others. If you are not sure, the best you can do is to consult with a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property.

How to identify and to contact the owner of an author’s right of a work?

As most of the countries do not require formalities to grant the protection of the author’s right, it is sometimes difficult to locate the owner of the rights of a work. To locate the owner of the author’s rights of a work of a specific territory, the best you can do is to contact the author or editor or the collective management organization, the local registration office or the national office of author’s rights. These organizations sometimes have a very valuable data basis about the ownership of the works protected by the author’s rights. The collective management organizations can also help to get an authorization from the owner of an author’s right about a work.

What do limitations and exceptions for the author’s right mean?

In some countries, the works that are not in the public domain can be used without any authorization or remuneration to the author or the owner of the rights. That can happen if those usages are the object of limitations and exceptions in accordance with the national legislation. Among the examples of the limitations and exceptions, we have: the works quotations; the use of news of the day; or the creation of accessible formats for the people with difficulties to access printed texts.

What is it understood by “legal use”?

There are differences among the legal systems, in the sense that, some have a clear list of limitations and exceptions of the author’s right, while others have only a general clause, which is generally known as a clause of “loyal use” or “loyal acts”.

What does it mean that a work is “in the public domain”?

When saying a work is in the public domain (or that is a “common property”) means that the work has no owner as for its own rights (the patrimonial rights). Generally, that happens when the period of protection of the rights have expired. For instance, the patrimonial rights of the famous poem “The Odyssey” by Homer, have expired and it can now be used or exploited without necessity of obtaining authorization or remuneration of the owner of the rights. In some countries, the authors sometimes willingly introduce their works in the public domain. This procedure is known as “voluntary waiver”.

​Can the works published on the Internet be freely used?

A wrong generalized idea is that the published works on the Internet, including the social media platforms, are of public domain and, therefore, can be freely used by anyone without the authorization of the owner of the right. Every work protected by the author’s right or by related rights, whether it is about a musical composition, a multimedia product, a press article, or an audiovisual production, period of which is still valid, is considered protected independently of whether it was published on paper or on the Internet. In every case, in general, you must obtain the authorization of the owner of the right before you use it. Sometimes, the websites have a general license that sets that the users are exempted from having to ask for a direct authorization for specific uses, like non commercial uses. In the practice, regarding a text at the public’s disposal in a blog or on a website, for example, that text cannot be used unless that: that use is contemplated in the general license granted on that website; that use is the object of a limitation or exception of the author’s right; or the authorization has been obtained. In the same way, a small or medium size firm needs authorization if it publishes or puts at the public’s disposal on its website, works, resounding recordings, broadcasts or interpretations or executions that are protected by an author’s right.

​What are the related rights?

The related rights are a group of rights independent from the rights related to the author’s right that are granted to certain people or entities that contribute to put the works at the public’s disposal. The beneficiaries of the related rights in the national legislations tend to be the interpreting and executing artists, the producers of phonograms and the organizations of broadcasting. The same conditions are applied to specific people and entities who have produced objects that, although they are not considered works in virtue of the systems of the author’s rights in some countries, have enough creativity and technical and organizational capacity as to deserve the grant of a right that is similar to the author’s right. Now, in some legislations, it is clear that the exercise of the related rights should not affect in any way the protection of the author’s right.