World Intellectual Property Organization

Frequently Asked Questions

You can contact the right owner. For certain types of works and other subject matter, you can get permission from a collective management organization. Collective management organizations license use of works and other subject matter that are protected by copyright and related rights whenever it is impractical for right owners to act individually. There are several international non-governmental organizations that link together national collective management organizations.

Under most national copyright laws, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work, including quotes, for purposes such as news reporting and private personal use. For further information check the national legislation available in WIPO Lex.

While in some countries treaties are "self-executive", meaning that the provisions of treaties can be directly applied as law, in general copyright and related rights are provided in national legislation of individual countries. International treaties link various national laws by ensuring that at least a minimum level of rights will be granted to creators under each national law. The treaties do not themselves grant rights, but rather require the countries that join the treaties to grant certain rights specified on a nondiscriminatory basis. Copyright laws of a wide range of countries can be consulted from the WIPO Lex database. For further information, you can also contact national copyright administrations.

WIPO is an intergovernmental organization, which administers a number of international treaties in the field of intellectual property, and may, at their request, advise governments. WIPO has, however, no mandate to give legal advice to private persons or non-governmental bodies or entities. For advice concerning specific matters, we recommend that you consult a practicing lawyer who specializes in intellectual property.

If you wish to license your work to broadcasters, publishers, or entertainment establishments (bars, nightclubs) joining a collective management society may be a good option. Collective management organizations monitor uses of works on behalf of creators and are in charge of negotiating licenses and collecting remuneration. They are particularly common in the field of musical and literary works where there may be a large number of users of the same work making it difficult both for the owner of rights and the users to seek specific authorization for every single use and to monitor them. Where collective management societies are not available, license agreements need to be negotiated individually with each licensee.

The creator of a work has the right to allow or to prohibit the use of his work. If you discover anybody using your copyright works without authorization you may enforce your rights administratively and in the courts. In many countries, so-called border measures to prevent the importation of pirated copyright goods are also available. Expert advice by an IP agent or attorney, the national copyright office or the customs authorities would be crucial whenever you discover that your works are being infringed. Some works such as software products phonograms and audiovisual works may include technological measures of protection (e.g. encryptions, conditional access systems) to safeguard them from unlicensed use. Such systems are means by which right owners may limit access to those customers who accept certain conditions for the use of works and the payment to be made for such use.

A common misperception is that works published on the Internet are in the public domain and may therefore be widely used by anybody without the authorization of the right owner. All works protected by copyright or related rights for which the time of protection has not expired, are protected regardless of whether they are published on paper or on the Internet. In each case you should, generally, seek the authorization of the right owner prior to use or review under which terms its use has been licensed.

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