Copyright protects all original works that bear the personal mark of the creator, e.g. a comic book, artwork, advertising design, photo, video, piece of music or a game. It is irrelevant whether the work has been finalised or not.
The source code and graphic interface of apps and games are also covered by copyright, provided that they satisfy the conditions. Unlike the Netherlands, Belgium has specific legislation for protecting computer programs. This legislation exists alongside copyright. Read more on the FPS Economy website.
Copyright only applies to works that are original and can be perceived by the senses.
What does it entail?
Copyright affords the creator certain rights:
- The right to make the work public. Making a work public means distributing it to the public. Example: posting a video on YouTube;
- The right to reproduce the work. Reproduction includes making a copy of the work, for instance. Making a copy in a different form, such as a translation, is also considered to be reproduction;
Example: cropping a photo in such a way that the composition is completely changed.
- Personality rights (also called moral rights) allow the author to object to their work being altered or distorted, or to it being made public under another name.
The fact that the creator holds these rights means that nobody else may enjoy these rights, unless the creator and other party have agreed otherwise in writing.
How long is it valid?
Copyright is valid until seventy years after the death of the creator. When the period of seventy years has elapsed, the work is free from copyright and can in principle be used without restriction.
Have multiple authors created a work together? In that case, the copyright is valid for seventy years after the death of the last surviving creator.
If a number of people work on something together, they also hold the copyright together. For example: a picture book has an illustrator as well as an author. Similarly, there are often a lot of people involved in making a video, for instance the director, scriptwriter, cameraman and editor, and sometimes parts of other works are also incorporated into the video, e.g. music.
It is sensible to enter into agreements in writing before starting to create something with others. In addition to agreeing on how to use the creation and share the revenue, you can also agree on what is to happen to the work in the event of a dispute, or if someone wants to withdraw from the project.
Infringement of copyright: did you know that...?
- Photos on the internet cannot automatically be used without restriction. In fact, they may only be used with the express permission of the photographer.
- The fact that a work does not bear a
©-symbol, does not automatically mean that the work can be used freely.
You may however use a work without permission if it is for private or educational purposes (general interest). In such cases, the source must be stated.
- You are allowed to make a parody or caricature of an original work. That said, conditions do apply. An IP professional can inform you about this.
Is my creation original?
Your work must satisfy two conditions to be deemed original:
- The work must have been created by a person;
- The work must be creative and identifiable as emanating 'from the creator'.
The work does not need to be new. You can, for example, choose to write a book on a subject that has been written about before.
Can my creation be perceived by the senses?
It must be possible to see, read or hear your creation. An idea in your head cannot be protected. The work therefore needs to have a tangible form.
Suppose you have an idea for a book about prejudice. Other people can write a book on that subject, because each writer will base their work on different facts and adopt a different perspective. Only when the idea is fixed in tangible expression, in the form of a text, with specific wording, a specific sequence and a particular approach to the subject, can the content be protected.
How is copyright created?
Copyright is created automatically. You do not need to do anything. An upshot of this is that it is sometimes difficult to prove who holds the copyright to a work, or who was first to create a work. It is therefore useful to be able to show officially that you are the creator. Recording your creation in an i-DEPOT is a way of doing just that. An i-DEPOT provides you with legally-recognised, date-stamped evidence that your creation was in existence on a certain date. More about i-DEPOT
In addition to copyright, related rights (neighbouring rights) can also be enjoyed. These rights protect, for instance, an actor's performance of a role, an artist's performance of a song written by another artist, and a video recording of a broadcast. You do not need to apply for related rights either. They arise automatically when you make the work.
Example: a singer-songwriter writes lyrics and performs them him/herself. In this case, they hold both the copyright and the related rights.
Copyright in the Benelux countries
More information about copyright in Belgium can be found on the FPS Economy, Intellectual Property Department website.
More information about copyright in the Netherlands is available on the Auteursrecht.nl website.
More information about copyright in Luxembourg is available on the gouvernement.lu website.
Would you like some advice?
BOIP is an independent body. This means we can only provide you with information, and not personal advice. An external IP professional can advise you on how best to protect your copyright.