Mickey mouse

Cartoon Mickey Mouse: The Mickey Mouse Protection Act (1998) ensures that Steamboat Willy, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon with audio from 1928, will be royalty free in 2023

Introductions Copyrights

Original work comes under copyright

What is copyright? Copyright comes into being at the moment a piece of work is created. This could be an article or a book, or it could be a design, photo, drawing or software programme. You do not have to do anything to obtain copyright; there is no registration process as with a patent. A copyright notice (©) is therefore unnecessary. The work must however bear the stamp of the author’s personality and feature a certain degree of authenticity.

  • mechanical photos,
  • video camera recordings,
  • business texts,
  • legislative texts

do not therefore satisfy the requirements of copyright.

Copyright expires 70 years after death

Copyright lasts for many years. When the creator dies, his/her work is subject to copyright for another 70 years. If work is published by a legal person or anonymously, the 70-year period begins immediately after publication. In many cases, copyright will become part of an inheritance. All publications since 1945 are therefore automatically still subject to copyright in 2015. In practice, however, copyright usually lasts for much longer. If a publication dates back to 1925, but the author died in 1975, it will not come into the public domain until 2045.

Copyright protects your work

Your rights as an author

In order to use copyright sensibly in higher education, it is important that you as the author understand the basic principles that allow you to exploit your own work and reuse that of others. Copyright gives an author rights relating to his/her own work.

Exclusive rights

Copyright is a so-called ‘sole’ or 'exclusive’ right. You as the creator decide what happens to your work and you have the sole, exclusive right to exploit it. As the creator, you are entitled to invoke this right against anyone. Copyright is therefore sometimes classed as a prohibitive right.

Copyright act

Under the terms of copyright, the creator may prohibit anything for which she/he has not given permission. The law defines copyright in Article 1 of the Copyright Act as follows: ‘The exclusive right of a creator of a work of literature, science or art, or of his/her successor in title, to publish or reproduce this work, subject to the restrictions laid down by law.The Dutch Copyright Act was drawn up in 1912 and has frequently been amended to keep pace with technological developments and harmonisation with European Union (2004) directives and international copyright conventions. Thanks to the technically independent character of the Act, the key elements from 1912 still apply.

As an author, you want copyright to work effectively in a number of ways:

  • You want to protect your publications from misuse.
  • You want to publish your work and reproduce it on your conditions.
  • You want to be able to reuse work produced by third parties.

The widespread use of the internet has generated countless possibilities for using and/or reusing digital work, while the digital application of copyright has led to a great deal of confusion. It is therefore in your own interests to keep abreast of developments relating to copyright. The basic premise is that copyright is intended to protect your work (personality rights) and to stimulate its distribution (exploitation rights).

Exploitation rights for the author

Copyright gives you as the creator of a piece of work the exclusive right to

  • publish it;
  • reproduce it.

These rights are known as exploitation rights. In many cases, you will have transferred your rights (or some of them) or given a licence to a publisher. It is also possible that the exploitation rights for your work are automatically owned by TU Delft, as in the case of teaching material, for example.

The foremost rights that you should retain on signing an agreement with a publisher/employer are the following:

  • the right to reuse an article to be included in a book;
  • the right to rewrite and adapt an article;
  • the right to distribute the article among colleagues;
  • the right to copy your article for teaching purposes;
  • the right to file the article in the TU Delft Repository as open access material.

Copyright in publisher’s contracts

If the rights shown above are not laid down in the publisher’s contract, use in the sense of the aforementioned is not automatically permitted. Although you will usually be given permission if you wish to exercise a specific right, you will be obliged to liaise with the entitled party. Some publishers (Open Access publishers, for example) will not expect you to sign over all the rights you are granted under copyright. They may instead ask you to sign a non-exclusive transfer of copyright, whereby you as author will retain full ownership of the publication and the related rights.

In order to make the best possible use of your rights, we would advise you to use alternative licences, which give a better balance between your interests and those of the publisher.
The Licence to publish is an example of an alternative contract.

Personality rights

In addition to exploitation rights, the law also protects you by granting you moral rights. These rights are closely connected with you as the creator of your work. They cannot be transferred to a third party. They allow you as creator to object to plagiarism in the form of publishing your work without stating your name, or under another name. In your capacity as creator, you may also lodge a protest against alterations to the name of your work or far-reaching changes that may damage your reputation.

Name author: Just de Leeuwe
© 2017 TU Delft