What is Intellectual Property ?
Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories:
- Industrial Property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.
- Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works(e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures) and architectural design. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.
What are Copyright and Related Rights?
Copyright laws grant authors, artists and other creators protection for their literary and artistic creations, generally referred to as “works”. A closely associated field is “related rights” or rights related to copyright that encompass rights similar or identical to those of copyright, although sometimes more limited and of shorter duration. The beneficiaries of related rights are:
- performers (such as actors and musicians) in their performances;
- producers of phonograms (for example, compact discs) in their sound recordings; and broadcasting organizations in their radio and television programs.
Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to: novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, computer programs, databases, films, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps and technical drawings.
What rights do copyright and related rights provide?
The creators of works protected by copyright, and their heirs and successors (generally referred to as “right holders”), have certain basic rights under copyright law. They hold the exclusive right to use or authorize others to use the work on agreed terms. The right holder(s) of a work can authorize or prohibit:
- its reproduction in all forms, including print form and sound recording;
- its public performance and communication to the public;
- its broadcasting;
- its translation into other languages; and
- its adaptation, such as from a novel to a screenplay for a film.
Similar rights of, among others, fixation (recording) and reproduction are granted under related rights.
Many types of works protected under the laws of copyright and related rights require mass distribution, communication and financial investment for their successful dissemination (for example, publications, sound recordings and films). Hence, creators often transfer these rights to companies better able to develop and market the works, in return for compensation in the form of payments and/or royalties (compensation based on a percentage of revenues generated by the work).
The economic rights relating to copyright are of limited duration – as provided for in the relevant WIPO treaties – beginning with the creation and fixation of the work, and lasting for not less than 50 years after the creator’s death. National laws may establish longer terms of protection. This term of protection enables both creators and their heirs and successors to benefit financially for a reasonable period of time. Related rights enjoy shorter terms, normally 50 years after the performance, recording or broadcast has taken place. Copyright and the protection of performers also include moral rights, meaning the right to claim authorship of a work, and the right to oppose changes to the work that could harm the creator’s reputation.
Rights provided for under copyright and related rights laws can be enforced by right holders through a variety of methods and fora, including civil action suits, administrative remedies and criminal prosecution. Injunctions, orders requiring destruction of infringing items, inspection orders, among others, are used to enforce these rights.
What are the benefits of protecting copyright and related rights?
Copyright and related rights protection is an essential component in fostering human creativity and innovation. Giving authors, artists and creators incentives in the form of recognition and fair economic reward increases their activity and output and can also enhance the results. By ensuring the existence and enforceability of rights, individuals and companies can more easily invest in the creation, development and global dissemination of their works.
This, in turn, helps to increase access to and enhance the enjoyment of culture, knowledge and entertainment the world over, and also stimulates economic and social development.
How are copyright and related rights regulated?
Copyright and related rights protection is obtained automatically without the need for registration or other formalities. However, many countries provide for a national system of optional registration and deposit of works. These systems facilitate, for example, questions involving disputes over ownership or creation, financial transactions, sales, assignments and transfer of rights.
Many authors and performers do not have the ability or means to pursue the legal and administrative enforcement of their copyright and related rights, especially given the increasingly global use of literary, music and performance rights. As a result, the establishment and enhancement of collective management organizations (CMOs), or “societies”, is a growing and necessary trend in many countries. These societies can provide their members with efficient administrative support and legal expertise in, for example, collecting, managing and disbursing royalties gained from the national and international use of a work or performance. Certain rights of producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations are sometimes managed collectively as well.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)