Intellectual Property Specialists
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The difference between copyright law and authors' rights

The regimes relating to copyright and authors’ rights are indeed different, historically speaking, but their differences today ought not to be exaggerated. One of the main differences concerns moral rights which, under the law of authors’ rights attach to the person, while in copyright law no moral right attaches to the author (even though the Berne Convention provides for this).

In general, the civil law system of authors’ rights, such as that which exists in France favors the physical author, while the common law system in the UK and USA for example is linked more to the work itself and mainly deals with pecuniary rights relating to the use of the work.

Nowadays, however, copyright and authors’ rights have almost become one and the same. Indeed, protection under the law of authors’ rights is becoming more economic in nature while copyright law has now begun to take moral rights into account.

In France, authors’ rights are governed by the Law of 11th March 1957. These provisions are contained in Book I of the French Code of Intellectual Property. The purpose of this legal regime is to protect original, creative works of the mind which are an expression of the author’s personality.

In the absence of any legal definition in the Code, jurisprudence and legislation have helped shed some light on the meaning of ‘‘works of the mind’’. Such works must result from an intellectual activity in its broadest sense. However, it is important to note that ideas are not protected. For example, it is not possible to claim any right over the idea or theme of a movie.

This definition may include works, graphic and applied arts, literary works, musical compositions, dramatic or cinematographic works and software. Because authors’ rights are implied in law, no legal formality such as registration is necessary for them to be protected.

However, in order to enforce rights over a particular work, the author must present evidence that the work is original and that he owns the rights over it by proving its creation and the date of creation. Many different types of evidence can be submitted but evidence of creation must be dated and must include a clear date. This can often be difficult to produce, especially when the work is the result of internal creations (like a rough sketch, or a data sheet).

The proof of the date of creation may result from the filing of collection with a court bailiff, from the filing of a “Soleau envelope”, from records of conversations or instructions with a subcontractor, from a publication in a dated magazine, or from a recorded and dated sale in a catalogue etc. Once the evidence is brought forward and accepted, the author’s ownership rights will be presumed.

Authors' rights over a work of the mind also give the author a patrimonial right which is perpetual and attached to the person. This moral right, expressly provided for in the French Code of Intellectual Property, gives its owner the right to control the disclosure of its work, the right to claim authorship over it, as well as the right to respect for the integrity of the work and the right of withdrawal (Articles L.121-1 and L.121-2).

Assistance and follow-up for:

  • Progress for applications with a bailiff to give a certain date to a specific work.
  • Filing customs surveillance records.

Representation in disputes arising from authors' rights infringement or copyright.