Sociology Index

Netherlands Copyright Law

Netherlands copyright law (Auteursrecht, Authors Rights) grants exclusive rights to the author of a work of literature, science or art. Originally intended to cover only books, today it includes films, recorded music and visual art.

Auteursrecht includes exclusive publishing rights and allows the author to make and sell copies of their work. It also includes the exclusive right to make products derived from the copyrighted work and to publicly display the work. These rights are recorded in a license contract between someone who has created a copyrighted work and someone who wishes to use that work.

Patents grant monopolierecht ("monopoly right") on inventions and copyrights apply only to specific creative manifestations of one or more ideas. Copyrights, however, can be bought and sold.

The owner of a copy of a copyrighted product can do with the copy as they please, even without actual ownership of the copyright, provided no copies are made and the product is not modified. Those who acquire modified copies from the copyright holder are also bound by these limitations.

Public displays of the creative work are regarded as a form of copying. However, both Dutch and Belgian law allow for citaatrecht (quotation right). This allows the use of portions of a copyrighted work under a strict set of conditions. Quotation rights are more limited and demarcated than the concept of fair use.

Auteursrechten grants more rights to employees over intellectual and other property created at work. Artists and musicians (not just the company with distribution rights) are also granted the right of resale, which means they are entitled to a royalty each time a copy of the work is published or exhibited. This is known as naburige rechten ("neighboring rights").

Auteursrechten, like the French idea of "droits d'auteur", implies not only legal but also moral rights. An author is theoretically given, in addition to the right of ownership, the right to be recognized for the work rather than being criticized for it. Regardless of whether property rights are allocated to the publisher or to the author, the author retains this moral right.

Under the Berne Convention the right of ownership (eigendomsrecht in Dutch) was automatically granted to every creative work. The author no longer needed to register the work, and was not required to apply for copyright coverage.

The Berne Convention is still in effect. When a work is finished (defined as being written or recorded on a physical medium), the author automatically receives all exclusive rights for that work as well as derivatives, unless and until the author explicitly renounces those rights or the copyright expires. According to the Berne Convention the minimum time is the lifetime of the
author plus 50 years. In the Netherlands the term is 70 years after the death of the author.

There are also many other treaties that settle specific parts of copyright. Examples are the European Directive on Copyright Protection of Software (Europese Richtlijn op de Auteursrechtelijke Bescherming van Software) and the European Directive on Neighboring Rights (Europese Richtlijn op de Naburige Rechten).

Copyright infringement is often compared to theft, but when something is stolen the owner no longer has access to the stolen property. It is not necessary to include copyright indicators such as "copyright 2006." The word "copyright" has no legal meaning in the Netherlands. The phrase "op dit werk berust copyright" ("this work is covered by copyright") has no legal
meaning.

Copyright is only granted to creative, original works. The creator of the work must have used some creativity or a certain creative decision must have been made. Creativity is a relative term, however, as this is a legal, not aesthetic, standard.

Passport photographs are an example of works that are not covered by copyright because they are produced in a standard way. Passport photographs are covered by portretrecht (portrait right).

When a copyright expires the work become part of the public domain. An author also can prematurely renounce a copyright.
Expiration or termination of the copyright does not automatically mean the work can be freely copied and published. For example, portrait rights of the person depicted may still apply to portraits.

The author of a work always retains certain rights, even if the copyright is transferred or renounced: the right of the author to be mentioned in, on or near the work is the best example. These rights are called persoonlijksheidsrechten (personality rights). These rights also last until 70 years after the death of the author.

All works communicated to the public by or on behalf of the public authorities (government) are not copyright protected in the Netherlands, unless the copyright has been reserved explicitly, either in a general manner by law, decree or ordinance, or in a specific case by a notice on the work itself or at the communication to the public.

This is regulated in Article 15b of the Copyright Act of 1912. This implies that all programmes of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting service (they are public authorities just like the Silicose Oud-mijnwerkers foundation, ABRS 30 November 1995, JB 1995/337) are not copyright protected.

In the Netherlands there is no copyright at all on the text of laws and court rulings; these governmental works can be accessed at all times by anyone for any purpose. However, some publishers of legal texts and court rulings do claim copyrights on the form in which they present the texts.