World Intellectual Property Organization

Copyright

What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to:

  • literary works such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers and computer programs; databases;
  • films, musical compositions, and choreography;
  • artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture;
  • architecture; and
  • advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

Copyright protection extends only to expressions, and not to ideas, procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such. Copyright may or may not be available for titles, slogans, or logos, depending on whether they contain sufficient authorship. In most circumstances copyright does not protect names.

There are two types of rights under copyright: economic rights allow the rights owner to derive financial reward from the use of his works by others; and moral rights are the rights to claim authorship of a work, and the right to oppose changes to the work that could harm the creator's reputation.

Most copyright laws state that the author or rights owner has the right to authorize or prevent certain acts in relation to a work. The rights owner of a work can prohibit or authorize:

  • its reproduction in various forms, such as printed publication or sound recording;
  • its public performance, such as in a play or musical work;
  • its recording (“fixation”), for example, in the form of compact discs or DVDs;
  • its broadcasting, by radio, cable or satellite;
  • its translation into other languages; and
  • its adaptation, such as a novel into a film screenplay.

According to the Berne Convention, copyright protection is obtained automatically without the need for registration or other formalities. Some national copyright offices and laws do however provide for registration of works. This can facilitate, for example, questions involving disputes over ownership or creation, financial transactions, sales, assignments and transfer of rights.

Copyright topics and issues

Copyright touches our lives on a daily basis. Whether you read a book, watch a film, transfer music, or take a photo, copyright issues are ever-present. Explore copyright topics and issues.

(Photo: iStock.com)

Video games

Video games can draw on audiovisual, artistic and software elements, making them complex and interesting cases in terms of copyright protection.

(Photo: Waag Society)

The future of publishing

Publisher Jason Epstein shares his views on the road ahead for publishing and the role of copyright.

(Photo: Victor R. Ruiz)

Copyright and museums

The work of museums in preserving, managing and facilitating access to the works in their collections involves some unique copyright-related issues.

Copyright law and treaties

Copyright law aims to balance the interests of those who create content, with the public interest in having the widest possible access to that content. WIPO administers several international treaties in the area of copyright and related rights.

WIPO Lex – IP laws and treaties at your fingertips

The WIPO Lex database is a comprehensive search tool that allows you to search national laws and international treaties on intellectual property.

Standing Committee (SCCR)

The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is the forum where WIPO member states and observers meet to discuss, debate and decide on issues related to the development of balanced international legal frameworks for copyright to meet society's evolving needs.

Latest meetings

Stevie Wonder at the signing of the Marrakesh Treaty
In 2013, the SCCR's work resulted in the Marrakesh Treaty to improve access to books for visually impaired people.  More SCCR photos on Flickr. (Photo: WIPO)

Collective management of copyright

Collective management is the exercise of copyright and related rights by organizations acting in the interest and on behalf of the owners of rights.

For example, an author may allow his/her work to be performed on stage under certain conditions, or a musician may agree to have a performance recorded on CD. However it can be impractical for an author or a musician to contact every single theater or radio station to negotiate licenses for the use of their work. This is where collective rights, and in particular collective management organizations (CMOs), come in.

WIPOCOS

Watch this introductory video to learn more about the collective management of copyright and collective management organizations (CMOs).

WIPO initiatives

We lead a range of practical initiatives to assist in the effective management of copyright, and ensure that copyright law works in action to reward creators and support cultural production.

Boosting access to publications for visually impaired people

  • The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) aims to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats - such as braille, audio and large print - and to make them available to people who are blind, have low vision or are otherwise print disabled.

Measuring economic performance

We support the collection of evidence to measure the economic contribution of copyright-based industries to national economies.

Infrastructure and management of copyright

GDA is an automated system for Copyright Offices to improve the efficient administration and management of copyright registration data.

Copyright resources

Making a living in the creative industries

Our practical guides focus on how to manage intellectual property in the creative industries:

How to Make a Living in the Video Game Industry

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