Author: Vilius Martisius, an Associated Partner, Attorney-at-law at METIDA
In the world of arts and enterprise, where creativity plays an important part, copyright is necessary for claiming the ownership or ensuring the protection of a created material. Creators often face risks of loosing their rights to their works and hence the possibilities to benefit from them financially. Therefore, to prevent themselves from such unpleasant problems, authors should have some brief knowledge about their rights to their created works. So what should creators know about copyright?
According to the Law of Republic of Lithuania on Copyright and Related Rights, copyright applies to original literary, artistic and music works, which are results of a creative effort expressed in any objective form. In order to qualify for copyright, a work must meet the standards of originality (it has to be new and different from other works) and must be the result of an independent creative effort. The law provides the sample list of creative works such as books, performances, speeches, articles, computer programs, paintings and photography. Thus, originality is the main criteria for a scientific, literary or artistic material to be protected by copyright.
Also, as stated in the law, copyright does not cover ideas, legal acts, official documents, national symbols, folk stories or songs.
It is important to note, that copyright is automatic and does not need to be obtained through registration. In other words, a work automatically gets a copyright protection after it has been fixed in some sort of expressible form. This causes problems in proving the fact that a material has been created. Yet, this could be solved either by publishing a work or by providing copyright contracts, photos or videos of a material.
Copyright has two distinguished components: moral rights and economic rights. The former belongs to an author of a creative work and cannot be transferred to any other person. For example, moral rights normally include the right to be identified as an author, the right to require to be cited either in a publication of a work or in referring to it, and finally, the right to object to any act that would infringe copyright. As for economic rights, they can be transferred to any other person or company in the form of a written contract. For instance, this would include publication, translation or copying of a work.
Creators often come to lawyers for advice only after their rights have been infringed. Unfortunately, subjects could not provide any documents proving that they created a material or they attempt to do so with inadequate copyright contracts. For example, a designer employed by one furniture company could accidentally sell copyright of his created furniture design to another company if the ownership of the created work has not been discussed appropriately in any agreement. Contractual agreements could minimize such disputes over copyright by defining copyright transfer, responsibilities and terms.
Contractual agreements could be such as a copyright licensing agreement, an agreement related to the transfer of economic rights, or a copyrighted order contract. A contractual agreement covers only economic rights, since moral rights cannot be transferred to any other person or company.
Transfer of economic rights is signed when a creator decides to sell or lend copyrights of his/her created work to another person or company. The assignment certifies the new owner of copyright for a fixed period of time after which an author regains his ownership to a created work.
Under the licensing agreement an author permits others to use the copyright work, yet he remains its main owner. The licensing agreement is similar to tenancy agreement, except that the subject of licensing is economic rights. Licenses could be sole or exclusive. An Exclusive license enables a licensee to use a copyright under the exclusion of others including the owner, whereas under a sole license a licensee does not receive such grant and the author is allowed to permit others to use his work.
Under the order agreement, an author is obliged to create a material for a client and to transfer him or her all the economic rights of the creation. The agreement must be signed before the material is created. Parameters and requirements of the expected work must be specified within the agreement, for the client’s needs could be satisfied.
All contractual agreements must be of a written form, as any verbal type of agreement does not enable witnesses to bear testimony in cases of copyright disputes.
It is worth noting, that clients must use their purchased economic rights effectively. The reluctant implementation of license might infringe the rights of a creator and this can lead to the cancelation of an agreement. In fact, a created material must be used by a purchaser in such manner that an author could gain popularity, a positive reputation and an appropriate financial reward. Thus, everyone who works in the field of science, enterprise or arts must have good understanding of copyright and its ways of transfer and protection.