If a certain threshold of originality is achieved when creating works, the works are protected by copyright. This protection is automatic and therefore, unlike protection by patent, does not require the work to be registered. It is also no longer necessary to use the copyright symbol Â© or to undertake the registration that used to precede the use of the symbol.
Copyright law is national law. The law that applies is the one in force in the place of use. Copyright transfer agreements enable you to predetermine which law shall apply to the contract.
The basic information provided here is based on the German law on copyright (in German only) and related rights. However, in international contracts the copyright of individual countries is predetermined in line with set standards.
Copyrights are divided into two categories: the inalienable moral rights of the author and the transferrable exploitation rights.
The moral rights of the author include the right to be recognised as the author of the work, which, in the case of citations, essentially means that the authorâ€™s name must be stated.
Exploitation rights include the right to reproduce, distribute and display the work.
When copyright holders want to allow third parties to use their work, as in the case of publication, for example, they need to transfer rights of use. The rights can be transferred exclusively or non-exclusively. Copyright holders relinquish their rights completely if they transfer rights exclusively. Conversely, rights can be transferred non-exclusively an unlimited number of times to an unlimited number of third parties.
Exploitation Rights are transferred by means of an agreement, which can be made verbally, in writing or through implied conduct. In this context, an example of implied conduct is the submission of a manuscript to a publisher or the subsequent cooperation in preparing and readying the work for publication.
Copyright transfer agreements given to an author by a publisher can be changed by the author before signing.
This is particularly in the interests of the authors of scientific publications if a publisher demands exclusive transfer of all rights, while the authors want to retain their right to use their works in teaching, for scientific exchange or for Open Access publication. An easy way of retaining your rights of use as described above, without being an expert in the respective legislation, is to add a special addendum to the contract.
Use of Creative Commons Licences
Creative Commons licences are model agreements. They are used to give the public the right to use a work protected by copyright.
If a work is published without the rights of use being transferred explicitly, the public is only authorised to use the work in a very restricted manner. Usersâ€™ actions are then limited to what copyright law at the place of utilisation permits. Consequently, the way in which they can use the work depends on the stipulations of national law. Rights must be transferred explicitly in order to grant users more rights of use. This can be done in a single step using the Creative Commons licences made available by the organisation of the same name.
Creative Commons licences are easy to use. For example, all you need to do is insert the appropriate licence pictogram on the title page or in the footer of a text.
Â´Please note that a Creative Commons licence can only be granted if the original author has not already transferred the exploitation rights exclusively to a publisher or other licensee.
The following Creative Commons licences â€“ adjusted to comply with German law â€“ are available:
- Attribution alone
- Attribution â€“ No derivatives
- Attribution â€“ Non-commercial
- Attribution â€“ Share alike
- Attribution â€“ Non-commercial â€“ No derivatives
- Attribution â€“ Non-commercial â€“ Share alike
Authors using CC licences transfer exploitation rights non-exclusively only.
All of the CC licences allow all users to reproduce the work and/or its content, to distribute it and to make it available to the public.
The fewer restrictions a licence contains, the better the licensed work can be distributed and used. The impact of this is particularly clear when works with different licences are put together to form a new work. In this case, restrictions affecting one of the works may affect the entire collection.