Lesson 1: What Are Your Rights as a Copyright Owner?


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    Copyright gives you the exclusive right to use the work in specified ways or to give permission to others to use the work in specified ways.

    The specific rights are usually listed in national copyright statutes that have some variations. However, typically, copyright allows you to undertake the following, among other activities:

    • reproduce the work (or a substantial part of the work),
    • translate the work,
    • perform the work in public,
    • adapt the work,
    • transform a two-dimensional work into a three-dimensional work,
    • communicate the work over the internet and
    • give permission for others to perform these acts.
  • You have to be given the same copyright treatments in other countries as those countries give to their nationals.

    A number of international agreements or treaties have attempted to ensure a minimum level of protection globally. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is the leading copyright treaty with 168 country members. A list of signatories to the Berne Convention can be found on the WIPO website.

    The Berne Convention establishes minimum standards that all members must adopt so that there are some basic similarities in the copyright laws around the world. However, given that the treaty imposes only minimum standards, member countries are free to exceed these minimum standards.

    The principle of national treatment under the Berne Convention requires that all member countries must treat foreign copyright holders the same way they treat their own. In other words, countries cannot discriminate against foreign creators of copyright works.

  • Your copyright lasts for your life, plus a fixed number of years after your death.

    As we have seen in module 1, the duration of copyright differs from country to country. The Berne Convention has established the general rule of duration as life of the author plus 50 years after the author’s death. Since this is a minimum standard that member countries can choose to exceed, countries around the world are increasingly adopting a standard of life plus 70 years, and some jurisdictions (for example, Mexico and Jamaica) have gone beyond this to fix the term at life plus 100 years.

    In addition, there are often different rules on copyright duration for different kinds of works, such as photographs where copyright terms might be based on creation or publication dates instead of premised on the life of the author. For example, Singapore’s copyright law provides for a term of 70 years from date of publication for photographs.

    Once the copyright expires, the work is in the public domain and can be freely reproduced or otherwise used by anyone. Since the copyright will expire in some countries more quickly than in others, what is in the public domain in one jurisdiction is not necessarily so in another.

Last modified: Wednesday, 21 October 2020, 9:19 AM