What are Copyright and Related Rights?

Copyright laws grant authors, artists and other creators protection for their literary and artistic creations, generally referred to as “works”. A closely associated field is “related rights” or rights related to copyright that encompass rights similar or identical to those of copyright, although sometimes more limited and of shorter duration. The beneficiaries of related rights are:

  • - performers (such as actors and musicians) in their performances;
  • - producers of phonograms (for example, compact discs) in their sound recordings; and
  • - broadcasting organizations in their radio and television programs.

Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to: novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, computer programs, databases, films, musical compositions, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps and technical drawings.

What rights do copyright and related rights provide?

The creators of works protected by copyright, and their heirs and successors (generally referred to as “right holders”), have certain basic rights under copyright law. They hold the exclusive right to use or authorize others to use the work on agreed terms. The right holder(s) of a work can authorize or prohibit:

  • - its reproduction in all forms, including print form and sound recording;
  • - its public performance and communication to the public
  • - its broadcasting;
  • - its translation into other languages; and
  • - its adaptation, such as from a novel to a screenplay for a film

Similar rights of, among others, fixation (recording) and reproduction are granted under related rights.

Many types of works protected under the laws of copyright and related rights require mass distribution, communication and financial investment for their successful dissemination (for example, publications, sound recordings and films). Hence, creators often transfer these rights to companies better able to develop and market the works, in return for compensation in the form of payments and/or royalties (compensation based on a percentage of revenues generated by the work).

The economic rights relating to copyright are of limited duration – as provided for in the relevant WIPO treaties – beginning with the creation and fixation of the work, and lasting for not less than 50 years after the creator’s death. National laws may establish longer terms of protection. This term of protection enables both creators and their heirs and successors to benefit financially for a reasonable period of time. Related rights enjoy shorter terms, normally 50 years after the performance, recording or broadcast has taken place. Copyright and the protection of performers also include moral rights, meaning the right to claim authorship of a work, and the right to oppose changes to the work that could harm the creator’s reputation.

Rights provided for under copyright and related rights laws can be enforced by right holders through a variety of methods and fora, including civil action suits, administrative remedies and criminal prosecution. Injunctions, orders requiring destruction of infringing items, inspection orders, among others, are used to enforce these rights.