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Copyright guide: About copyright

Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property. It grants exclusive rights to the creator of an original work for its use and distribution.

Copyright protects almost all of the materials used in academic education. Licence agreements are created for users to copy and use copyright protected materials.

Intellectual property rights

Intellectual property rights are divided into copyright and industrial property rights. Industrial property rights are, for example, patents, protection of design and trademark. Industrial property rights will come into force only by registering.

Copyright protects the work immediately, without registration. Copyright is generated while the work is being completed. The work does not need to be reported to any of the registers, and it is not necessary to attach the © sign to it.

Duration of copyright

The duration of copyright spans the author’s life plus 70 years after the author’s death, according to Finnish Copyright Act. The author can hand over part of the financial rights, for example, to the publisher to manage the duration of copyright. Unlike economic rights, all moral rights may not be transferred, even if financial rights are ceded.

The producer of audio and video recordings has related or neighbouring rights, which are not connected with the work’s actual author. Their duration is 50 years from the completion of the recording and 50 years after its release. The related rights of a photo are valid 50 years after it is taken. 

Links

- Finnish Copyright Act.

- Copyright in teaching by Pirjo Kontkanen, laywer, University of Helsinki.

- Art University Copyright Advice by Aalto University.

- Copyright by Lappeenranta University of Technology LUT.

The author and the work

The creator or the author is a natural person, being an adult or a minor, who has created the work and owns the exclusive rights of the work. If a work has multiple authors who are commonly referred to as rights holders, each author holds his/her rights to his/her own part. If multiple authors’ contributions do not constitute independent works, the copyrights shall belong to the authors jointly.

The work is a sufficiently creative literary or artistic work, for example, an article, a book, a musical composition, an oral presentation, a painting, a photograph, or a building.  Whether a piece of work can be regarded as an independent piece of work and thus reach copyright protection depends on the originality of the work.

A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.  In other words, copyright protects the form of the work, not the substance.

Transfer of rights

The author can partly or wholly transfer his/her rights to another party. Right holders can thus be writers, film directors, composers, and publishers, companies and educational institutions as well.

Economic and moral rights

Copyrights consist of economic and moral rights. Economic rights provide the author with the exclusive rights to control a work by reproducing it and by making it available to the public.

Moral rights have two dimensions: the rights to paternity and respect. When copies of a work are made or the work is partly or wholly presented in public, the name of the author shall be stated in a manner required by proper usage. A work must not be altered in a manner which is prejudicial to the work’s literary or artistic value or to the author’s literary or artistic reputation.

Exclusive rights and exceptions

The overriding principle of copyright is that the work may only be used with the permission of the author and in the manner specified by the author. The author has the exclusive rights to determine the use of his/her work. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and moral rights such as attribution.

Exception provisions in copyright laws, however, give users rights to use materials in a certain way, including fair use. The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to the philosophical basis of copyright law. Simultaneously, businesses with great economic dependence upon copyright, such as those in the music business, have advocated the extension and expansion of copyright and sought additional legal and technological enforcement.

More information, see Exceptions written by Pirjo Kontkanen, laywer, University of Helsinki.