Tips for Negotiating a Contract

Whereas Anglo-American law makes it possible to lawfully transfer or assign the economic rights, or copyright in the Anglo-American sense, to a third party, such an assignment is not valid under Czech law (contrary to some countries of the French dualistic system where such an assignment is valid). The civil (European) legal system emphasizes the moral rights as part of copyright, i.e. the link between the rights and the author. It is precisely the fact that the moral rights of authors are not as prominent under Anglo-American law that makes the assignment of copyright possible in such countries. Moral rights of authors (whatever their form and extent) cannot be assigned neither in the Czech Republic, nor in other European or Anglo-American countries.

Under Czech law, a third party may only be granted a license under by virtue of a license agreement. If the license is granted as an exclusive one in an unlimited extent permissible by law, to all possible uses, together with the right to grant sublicenses or to assign the license in full or in part to third parties, for a one-off license fee, then such an agreement is a buy-out license agreement consisting in buying such rights in the maximum extent permissible by law.

In fact, such a license may be considered as a “sale” of the work or “transfer” of the economic rights of the author. In economic terms, the licensee (be it an individual or a legal entity) will enjoy almost the same rights as the author before granting the license. In legal terms, the licensee will not become the holder of the economic rights because these cannot be assigned; the author will be the only holder of such rights (though rather de iure than de facto).

The respective legal provisions regulating the execution and content of contracts sometimes take into consideration situations where an object protected by law is created under such a contract (creating a work of art, artistic performance etc..). The parties, including, without limitation, the users, clients and producers, should have this in mind when negotiating contracts and should include the respective license in the contract. Only then will they have a guarantee that they will be able to use the results of creative and interpretative activities of the contractors and suppliers.

The content of the license agreement depends on the type and nature of the intended use of the copyrighted work or artistic performance. Unless the license is granted as an exclusive one, which must be done in writing, an oral license agreement is sufficient to make the agreement valid. However, we recommend the written form for all contracts and agreements as it makes it easier to prove the existence of such a contract or agreement. This is especially important for larger-scale production projects.

The license agreement should include a detailed list of the individual uses, i.e. a detail description of the distribution channel or the model to disseminate the copyrighted work/artistic performance in practice.

Licenses may be granted subject to territorial, temporal, quantity, purpose or technological limitations; however, they may also be granted in full without any of these limitations.

Unless a type of use and the extent of the license is agreed, the purpose of the license will be the most relevant factor. In other words, the license will be granted to such uses and in such an extent as necessary to achieve the purpose foreseen by the parties if such a purpose can be determined on the basis of the content of the agreement or the negotiations before its execution.

Sometimes the artist may also withdraw from the license agreement; such cases include, without limitation, situations where the exclusive licensee is inactive, e.g. a producer as a licensee does not make use of the license at all or not enough, or due to change of the artist's worldview. For the withdrawal to be valid, other statutory requirements must be complied with (e.g. there must special grounds for such withdrawal). The artists may also be required to compensate the other party for any damage caused by the termination of the license as a result of the withdrawal.