Copyright: what the lawyer says about protecting your work

Frédéric Tort, a lawyer specialising in the protection of intellectual property and copyright answers our questions.

What is a copyright-protected?
A work is an artistic creation, (literary, artistic, sound, visual or audiovisual). It is more than just a simple idea. The work must be original. Obviously, it is not easy to define originality. It can be considered to be the “personal imprint of the author”. The author must be able to demonstrate that his creation is different from others.

How do you protect a work?
In many countries, a work is protected, “for the simple fact of having been created by its author”. To have the copyright, in principle, it is not necessary to register it or do any procedure. In countries such as the United States, you have to register your work.

How can you enforce your copyright?
Just certain simple precautions are enough. If it is a written work, in France, like the UK, all you need to do is send the screenplay to yourself by registered mail. But you must not open it. In other countries, the Ministry of Culture will register a submission for a minimum fee.

What guarantees does a copyright have?
The author has the following rights over his work: Patrimonial law – He may reproduce and communicate his work to the public by all means; Moral right –  he can demand that his work is respected and if he gives the right for his work to be used, that his name is mentioned. You also have the right to suspend the exploitation of your work at any time.
What do I do if my work is copied without my consent or plagiarised?
A work is protected by the fact of existing, so the author has the right to demand from the person who has plagiarised the work to cease all exploitation of it. In case of rejection or not receiving a response, a lawsuit can be imposed through the courts.

How to know if I am plagiarising a work?
An author may plagiarise a work without realising it, or deliberately (borrowing ideas, appointment, “homage” or “inspiration”). He must take responsibility for that fact and correct that situation. Therefore, great care should be taken when citing previous works of others, when taking up similar works, and even when using names or images of people.

What can do to avoid plagiarising a work?
Above all, you must not use somebody’s work (fragment or entire) without authorisation. Nor create a work that is flagrantly similar to another already created by another author.

What rights do foreign authors have in France?
Foreign authors can assert certain rights guaranteed by French law, as was the case with the heirs of John Huston against the “colouring” of the film “Asphalt Jungle“. They can avail themselves of the provisions of French laws, even if they do not exist in their country of origin. The Berne Convention stipulates the rights of the author in all the signatory countries.