Czech and Slovak Copyright Law Compared

Thanks to a long-period of uniform development in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Czech and Slovak law are similar in many aspects. On a general level, this also applies to copyright law. The Slovak copyright law is laid down in Act No. 185/2015 Z. z., the Copyright Act, effective as from 1 July 2016. In spite of this, there are considerable conceptual differences between Czech and Slovak copyright law in some aspects including, but not limited to, the license agreement, regulation of audiovisual and architectonic works, merger of works, right to process a work; under Slovak law it is possible to grant license (an irrevocable consent) to interfere with moral rights. Other differences are related to the collective management and statutory exceptions; the Slovak Copyright Act does not determine the unjust enrichment to be the double of the standard license fee as is the case in the Czech Republic.

Below is a brief overview of other differences between Czech and Slovak copyright law:

  • The Slovak Copyright Act exempts from copyright protection the same objects as the Czech Copyright Act, namely motive, idea, diagram, formula etc. and technical standards, which are mentioned explicitly.
  • The regulation of collective management also exhibits some differences: there is no statutory monopoly for collective management, there are differences in the regulation of collective licenses and changes of the rates of the copyright collective societies. Logically, the copyright collective societies are different and have different names:
  • SOZA: represents composers and lyrics writers
  • LITA: represents authors of literary, dramatic, choreographic, pantomime and scientific works
  • SLOVGRAM: represents performers and producers of phonograms and audiovisual fixation
  • OZIS: represents performers
  • SAPA: represents audiovision producers
  • AGICOA Europe Slovensko: this society is in charge of collective management in cable retransmission, public broadcast, broadcast of visual and audiovisual works; the society is in fact inactive.
  • Sometimes different terms are used in the Slovak and Czech law to refer to the same concepts.
  • In Slovakia the license agreement is regulated in Sections 65-76 of the Slovak Copyright Act, unlike in the Czech Republic, where it is laid down in the Civil Code.
  • The official works exempt from copyright protection under the Slovak Copyright Act include technical standards, speeches made when discussing public issues and zoning documents.
  • The Slovak regulation of the (un)lawfulness of copies for personal use is interesting. Under Slovak law, such copies should not be made from illegal sources, which is not an explicit requirement under the Czech Copyright Act and may only be derived from the three-step model of copyright exceptions (Section 29 of the Copyright Act). The need to distinguish between legal and illegal source is reinforced in the Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union C-435/12 ACI Adam BV and Others v Stichting de Thuiskopie and Stichting Onderhandelingen Thuiskopie vergoeding, which is reflected in Section 35(3) of the Slovak Copyright Act (unlike in the Czech Copyright Act): “The sources of a copy made without the author’s consent under Sections 42 and 43 must not infringe copyright.” Eventually, the legal situation is the same in both countries as the judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union is binding when interpreting Czech Copyright Act.
  • The use of works for teaching is considered quotation under Czech law whereas there is a special provision governing such uses in the Slovak Copyright Act.
  • Unlike the Czech Copyright Act, the Slovak Copyright Act stipulates that the exception for paper copies (copies for personal use made on paper or similar medium) does not apply to the entire verbal literary work (it applies only to its parts) and to the graphic representation of architectural works (i.e. project and design documentation).

To conclude, the minor differences between Czech and Slovak copyright law should not cause problems when negotiating contracts between Czech and Slovak artists. Having said this, the governing law must be agreed in Czech-Slovak agreements as in any cross-border agreements. To some extent, you may rely on the identity of most of the legal institutions, concepts and tools and Czech and Slovak copyright law. Therefore, there is no reason for Czech artists to be worried when their Slovak counterparty suggests that the agreement be governed by Slovak law; however, as the Slovak regulation of the license agreement is rather unfortunate and when an amateurish contract may be rendered void, Czech governing law should be the preferred option.