Exceptions to Copyright

All exceptions to copyright are subject to the three-step test under the Berne Convention. To comply with the test, any limitation or exception to copyright may only be used in special cases (i.e. it is not the standard situation), provided that this does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

The following overview of the exceptions is far from being exhaustive; the Copyright Act defines many more exceptions but those listed below are the most relevant ones for live performance and visual arts.

  • Quotation
    Whoever quotes in his or her work excerpts from a published work by other authors in a reasonable extent does not infringe copyright provided that he or she acknowledges the name of the author (if possible and if the author is not anonymous), name of the work and the source. Only excerpts, but not entire works, may be quoted (this does not apply to short works such as four-verse poems which may be quoted in full in scientific works and literary criticism, but not in artistic works). In a similar vein, published works may be used for scientific and teaching purposes during lectures or school classes. This is, however, strictly limited to the course of such a lecture or class. Therefore, this exception does not apply to including and using texts and illustrations in a textbook (irrespective of the fact whether the textbook will be sold for profit, or not).


Quotations from contemporary fiction and scientific works are used in a play of social criticism. They are used to suggest conceptual links creating a new perspective for the need to think about society. The quotations are marked with quotation marks and their source is always provided (at the end or in the programme).

  • Government and journalistic use, civil and religious ceremonies and school performances  It is permitted to use, to a reasonable extent, any work for government purposes, or providing current news through TV, newspapers or other media which inform about current cultural events (exhibition openings, film or theatre premieres, concerts etc..). In addition, it is possible to use any work for non-profit purposes as part of civil and religious ceremonies or as part of school performances. Libraries and archives enjoy a similar exception.


TV culture news include a short report on an exhibition preview about conceptual arts which will be held on the following day. For such purposes, the report may include samples or photos of the works of art as well as a photo or a name tag of the author.

The exhibition sparks a discussion at a platform of an internet portal of arts criticism where photos of the works and the author are shown. The use of such photos at the portal is lawful inasmuch as the exhibition is a current event and as long as they are only in the editorial part (i.e. not in the discussion posts by the readers).


  • Personal use The Copyright Act refers to the use of a work, but explicitly excludes the personal use from such uses. Therefore, anyone may use any work for his or her personal use, may make copies, reproductions or imitations thereof (this does not apply to copies of software or electronic database, or reproductions or imitations of a work of architecture by its construction, or a reproduction or recording of an audiovisual work performed from a recording, e.g. in the cinema). Such reproductions may not be used for other purposes (e.g. they cannot be further disseminated). The reproduction must be based on a lawful source (see also Czech and Slovak Copyright Law Compared). The personal use is subject to the payment of fair compensation, which is included in the price of the reproduction machine or product collected from the sellers or importers of such machines and products by copyright collective societies as part of the obligatory collective management.
  • Exhibitions and Catalogues Exception
    To promote an exhibition or sell originals or reproductions of works of arts, anyone may use such works without the author’s consent in the extent necessary to promote such an event except for commercial uses. Author’s consent is not required to include the displayed work in a catalogue of the respective exhibition, auction, fair or similar event, neither for further reproduction and dissemination of the catalogue. In any of the cases (if usual practice), the name of the author must be indicated (unless it is an anonymous work) or a name of another person whose name is used in public, as well as the name of the work and its source.
  • Freedom of Panorama
    Anyone may record, paint, draw, express as a graphic, photo or record as a film any copyrighted work which is permanently displayed in a public square (a street, square, park etc..). Such recordings may be lawfully reproduced and disseminated even without the author’s consent; the author, the name and the source of the original work should be indicated. This exception does not apply to a 3D copy of the original work, such as a construction or sculpture.
    Interestingly, the freedom of panorama is regulated in different ways in different EU member states. The following countries are the most striking examples of EU countries where the freedom is absent: France and Italy, Belgium until summer of 2016. For example, in Francie, the night lightning of the Eiffel Tower is subject to copyright, and the night photos of the Tower cannot be disseminated.
  • Fair Use Doctrine
    Some countries (mainly USA, and partly United Kingdom) apply less strong protection and consider some uses without the author’s consent as fair use. Such uses include criticism and reviews, parodies, commentaries, teaching, research etc. The Czech law does not include such a comprehensive and broad fair use doctrine as the US law; the last amendment to the Copyright Act, however, introduced a novelty consisting in the use of the work for caricature and parody.