World Intellectual Property Organization

Useful Tips for Your SME as a Copyright Owner

If your company is directly involved in the so-called “copyright industries,” e.g. creating, publishing, recording, distributing or selling works protected by copyright or related rights, you should make sure you are aware of your rights and take appropriate measures to exercise, license and enforce them. But even if you are not directly involved in the “copyright industries,” your enterprise may occasionally produce some works protected by copyright or related rights. Corporate publications, brochures, websites, TV or newspaper advertisements, marketing videos are all likely to be protected under copyright legislation.

Either way, if you believe that your enterprise has created works protected by copyright or related rights and you wish to maximize your SME’s rewards from such works, it would be prudent for you to seek the advice of your national copyright office or of a copyright lawyer. The following are some of the questions you could ask to better understand the copyright system in your country:

Is there a copyright depositary? As a general rule, copyright protection is automatic and does not depend on registration. In some countries, however, there is a copyright depositary and registering your work in the depository would be a smart choice as it would considerably assist you in case of dispute for example over the ownership of the work.

Who owns the rights? The owner of copyright in a work is generally the original creator or author of the work. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. In some countries, for example, the economic rights over a copyright work are deemed to vest initially in the employer/producer, while in some others these are deemed to be assigned or transferred to the employer/producer. It would therefore be advisable to find out about the specific regulations in your own country.

What are my rights? The exclusive rights which are accorded to authors and right holders under national copyright legislation vary from one country to another. However, exclusive rights usually encompass, for example, the right of reproduction (right of making copies), the right of public performance, the right of broadcasting, and the right of adaptation. Also an increasing number of countries provide right holders with rights in relation to the distribution of their works over the Internet as well as protection against the circumvention of technological protection measures. Thus, it would be worthwhile finding out what rights are provided under your national copyright legislation in order for your SME to fully benefit from the protection of copyright and related rights. In order to facilitate legitimate trade of copyright works, it should also be kept in mind that the economic rights granted to authors have a time limit, according to the WIPO treaties, of 50 years after the creator’s death. Longer periods of protection might be provided at the national level. Collective management organizations are usually in a position to provide appropriate information on the issue. Do also remember that copyright protection usually includes moral rights which include the right to claim authorship of a work and the right to oppose changes to it that could harm the creator's reputation.

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