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Intellectual Property: Copyright protection

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Maria Demetriou, author of the article.

Author: Maria Demetriou

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Date of Publication: 18/10/2022

What is Intellectual Property?

There is no doubt that we all strongly protect your physical property. What about your intellectual property (IP), though? You wouldn’t like it if someone stole or copied your intellectual creations, would you? Then, you should know how to safeguard your IP. Let’s take a look at a common way to ensure legal protection to your IP: the copyright.

What is Intellectual property (IP)?

Intellectual property (IP) is all the ideas and inventions that your mind creates.

Examples of IP:

  • Literary and artistic work

  • Names/ logos of brands and products

  • Symbols

  • Designs

  • Images

Except for the moral and sentimental value of ownership, IP has also economic and commercial value. That means that the public will recognize you as the owner of the IP and you will earn money from your intellectual creation. Thus, in order to gain these benefits, you should secure your IP, by using the appropriate type of protection. The most common types of IP protection are:

✔ Copyrights

✔ Patents

✔ Trademarks

What is copyright?

It’s time we talked about the type of IP protection: the copyright. Copyright refers to the rights you have over the work you write or produce. Thus, you need to be the author/artist/producer/creator of the original work in order to gain copyright protection. In particular, copyright covers all types of literary or artistic work, such as:

  • Books, newspaper articles, novels and plays

  • Videos

  • Photos

  • Graphic designs and paintings

  • Sculptures

  • Music

  • Films

  • Audio and broadcasts

  • Software and databases

  • Advertisements

  • Maps

It is important to note that, since copyright depends on the authorship of an idea, it only protects the expression of it and not the idea/procedure itself.

Does copyright have differences from patents and trademarks?

For a better understanding of copyrights, you should notice its main difference from patents and trademarks. On the one hand, copyrights protect literary and artistic creations. On the other hand, the last two offer protection over industrial creations. The former refers to the exclusive right granted to a new technique or invention. The latter refers to the protection of signs that identify and distinguish one product/ service from another.

What is the European and International legal framework of copyright?

The EU copyright legislation is well-developed and consists of 11 directives and 2 regulations. Moreover, the international copyright framework includes the following:

  • Berne Convention

  • Rome Convention

  • Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

  • WIPO Copyright Treaty

  • WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

  • Beijing Treaty

  • Marrakesh Treaty

All the above result in a detailed and advanced legal framework for the copyright protection of your IP. Specifically, they protect your rights, either you are a(n):

✔ Author or poet,

✔ Painter,

✔ Digital author,

✔ Performer (actor, singer, musician),

✔ Producer of phonograms,

✔ Broadcaster or

✔ Topographer

What is the ambit of copyright protection?

Firstly, copyright protection is territorial, both in the international and European level due to the absence of an established EU copyright. So, your copyright protection is only applicable in the territory of a specific Member State. Secondly, although copyright protection has an expiration date, its duration is really long. Particularly, in the EU, copyright secures your IP for a period of 70 years after your death. After that period, it expires and the public is allowed to use the workpiece freely. What’s more, in the international context, the expiry of your copyright may vary if you are a citizen of a country-member to the Berne Convention. But, at least, it has to last until 50 years after your death.

What are the rights provided by copyright protection?

Copyright protection provides you two exclusive rights for your original work:

  1. Economic rights: You control how to use your work in order to earn financial benefits by:

✔ Selling or licensing copyright to others,

✔ Allowing the usage of your work in a certain way,

✔ Reproducing,

✔ Publishing,

✔ Recording,

✔ Broadcasting or

✔ Translating your work

You, as the creator, are the only one who can permit or prohibit such usage of your work by others.

  1. Moral rights: You are able to protect your non-financial interests by:

✔ Claiming ownership of your work (right of attribution)

✔ Refusing changes to your work (right of integrity and reputation)

Is it necessary to apply for copyright protection?

Both in the EU and in the international context - for the countries-members to the Berne Convention- you gain copyright protection and all the relevant rights, automatically. This starts from the moment you create an original work. Thus, you don’t need to register for it or follow any formal procedures. In addition, you don’t even need to actively use your original work and you can invoke your copyright anytime -before its expiry. Despite that, it would be wise if you notify the public about your authorship. You can do that by adding a copyright symbol (©) or a copyright statement (“all rights reserved”) with the specific year of creation. In this way, you can easily prove the existence of your workpiece. Thus, you are able to pursue a legal action against the potential “thieves” of your work more conveniently. In addition, you should keep in mind the voluntary registration procedures, which exist in most countries. These enhance not only the certainty and security of your ownership, but they also facilitate the allotment of the relevant rights. Lastly, until recently, you even had the opportunity to certify your ownership in the digital field, using the WIPO PROOF service. However, in the present, you cannot use that service anymore, unless you had already registered for it before January 2022.


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