Introduction Copyright

Copyright provides legal protection of intellectual property of the author or creator of a work.

Copyright law

Copyright covers two areas:  
the right to publish a work and the right to reproduce a work.  According to (Dutch) law copyright permits the owner the exclusive right to exploit the work and to prevent its reproduction. This means that anyone else wishing to publish or reproduce a work must have the permission of the copyright owner in order to do so.

How is copyright protection for a work obtained?
Normally authors or originators of work initially own copyright as soon as their work is recorded in some material form. In the performing arts copyright can be a complex area of law but by and large it is the creator of work who owns the copyright and not those who execute it.
Unlike patent right, copyright does not need to be applied for, there is no need for filling out forms of for registering anything.

What exactly is Publishing?
Publishing is making copies of a work available to the public. The emphasis lies on 'public'. The public is anybody outside your private circle.
Electronic copying and storage is a form of reproduction and may infringe copyright if it is republished (for example, on a website or by including it in a PowerPoint presentation).
• Scanning is a means of copying a work; e-mailing it is a form of publication.
• Making your scanned copy available to other people is both a form of reproduction and of distribution. Doing so without permission may infringe copyright.
Including (hyper)links does not constitute reproduction, distribution or adaptation and does not infringe copyright.

Multiple copying
If a work is protected by copyright, without the permission of the copyright owner, you may not:
• Download or scan a publication and store it on your pc;
• Distribute a scanned or electronic publication by e-mail to a group larger than what may reasonably be considered family or friends;
Including (hyper)links does not constitute reproduction, distribution or adaptation and does not infringe copyright.

What exactly is reproduction?
Reproduction means making new copies of a work, whether on paper or in electonic (digital) form. Scanning a printed article or saving a digital article on your computer also constitutes reproduction. Other forms of reproduction are translating or adapting a work.
Note: making a paper or digital copy of a work for personal use is permitted without the author's consent.

Are there any exceptions or limitations to copyright?
The right to publish or reproduce a work rests exclusively with its maker. But in some situations copyright of authors is limited. These limitations stipulate in which cases publishing or reproducing a work is permitted without permission of the holder of copyright. Without permission however does not always mean without compensation.

When may I use (publish or reproduce) work by others without requiring those others' consent?
The following cases in which you may use (part of) a work by someone else without his/her consent are relevant to scientists and teachers:

  1. You may make a digital or printed copy (reproduction) for personal use or study
  2. You may cite (publish) short passages from work by others in your own work. The citation must however be relevant, and the source and the author's name must be mentioned.
  3. Passages from a work may be used for explanation in teaching. Clearly mentioning the source is required here as well. Compensation is due for using the text ('reader fees').
  4. Copyright does not apply to law texts and other information from the government. These you may use in your work without limitation.


What is an author?
An author is anyone who actually creates the work. This person is holder of the original copyright. What counts is who is the 'creator', not who executes the work. Therefore, the writer and not the printer or publisher. The architect and not the contractor or the mason.

Does the maker always hold copyright to his works?
No, the maker of a work does not always hold copyright. For works which were 1made within the frame of an employment contract, which were made by 2several authors, and which were made 3under direction and supervision of someone else, copyright does not rest with the work's (physical) maker. An author may also 'lose' copyright to his work by 4transferring it to someone else.

Employer ownership
Where an employee has been specifically employed to produce a work or it has been commissioned as part of expected duties, the employer may hold the copyright, unless an agreement exists that states otherwise.

Staff ownership rights
Copyright in scholarly work produced by academic staff such as theses, journal articles, and teaching materials belongs to the originator and not the employer (University).

Institutional ownership rights
If teaching material has been made at a university by an employee, jurisprudence states that copyright rests with the employer (university).
Copyright to work made under direction and supervision of someone else
If a work has been made to the design of someone else, and under direction and supervision of that other person, that other person holds the copyright.

Student ownership rights
Students own the copyright in their dissertation, unless there is a written agreement to transfer the copyright to the University, or research supervisor, or the commercial enterprise where the research has been carried out. Where research has been carried out in collaboration with trade or industry, it is important that agreement is reached over the ownership of the copyright in the research beforehand.

Copyright to work made by a team
If a clear distinction can be made between parts of the work made by each team member, each member holds copyright to his/her contribution. If this distinction cannot be made, the team members obtain a collective copyright to the work as a whole.

Transfer of copyright ownership
By assigning ownership of the copyright of a work to someone else the author transfers control over its future publication or reproduction to the new owner. But the author almost always retains moral rights to his/her work regardless of the copyright owner. This provides the creator of a work the right to be identified as the author and the right to take legal action against any change to the title of or derogatory treatment of the work itself. This last includes a bad translation into another language or placing a text in a completely different context.
Transfer of copyright must be put in writing. Publishers and institutions make use of so-called 'copyright transfer forms' or 'copyright transfer agreements'.


What is a work?
Not everything is copyrighted! A work is subject to copyright if it has an original character, and bears the mark of its maker. This is not a heavy requirement! A work is original if it is humanly impossible that two authors could produce the same work. A scientific publication meets this requirement.

Latest update: 1 January 2009