Copyright law

The regulation of copyright differs across individual EU member states; the growing harmonization, however, keeps eliminating many of the differences. Despite considerable harmonization efforts, copyright law in Europe has not been fully harmonized yet.

International cooperation between organizers of cultural events and performers and artists involves certain problems caused by different regulation of copyright. Such problems are even more prominent when it comes to cooperation with non-members of the European Union, where the EU law is not applied.

In addition to EU directives and regulations which are transposed into national legislation of EU member states, there are international treaties (some of which have nearly worldwide scope) defining the basic principles and rules of copyright protection including the revised Berne Convention (Berne, 1886), Universal Copyright Convention (Geneva, 1952) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) entered into within the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All EU member states are signatories to the revised Berne Convention and are bound by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In addition, the European Union and its member states have ratified the WIPO-administered treaties. Therefore, it is only logical that the efforts to harmonize national legislation and copyright protection within the EU are more intense than in the past or than in other parts of the world.

EU law prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality; in other words, the member states shall afford the same degree of protection to all authors, who are EU nationals. In its 1993 Phil Collins judgment, the European Court of Justice emphasized that strict adherence to the principle of reciprocity is contrary to the principles of EU law, as well as the importance of national treatment in all cases.

EU harmonization efforts include Directive 2012/28/EU on certain permitted uses of orphan works which makes it possible to use, to a certain extent, so called orphan works, i.e. works where none of the right-holders in that work or phonogram is identified or, even if one or more of them is identified, none is located. Other examples include the Directive on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights, Directive on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art, Directive on the rental, lending and certain other rights related to copyright, Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights etc..

The following websites offer an overview of the existing legislation as well as the current debates: Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (Ministry), European Commission, European Commission on the Resale Right, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Example No.1

A Danish artists interested in new trends in audiovisual arts wants to use part of a dance performance of a Finnish dance company. The Finnish group is not represented by copyright collective society (see Exercise of rights without representation by a copyright collective society).

Example No. 2

At an international festival the management of an Austrian theatre saw an unconventional performance of a Swedish theatre company, and now wishes to translate and adapt the play to stage it in Austria. The Swedish playwright is not represented by the publishing company nor a copyright collective society (see Exercise of rights without representation by a copyright collective society).