Right of Reproduction under Copyright Law

Right of Reproduction under Copyright Law

The right of the owner of copyright to prevent others from making copies of his works is the most basic right under copyright.  For example, the making of copies  of  a  protected  work  is  the  act  performed  by  a  publisher  who  wishes  to distribute copies of a text-based work to the public, whether in the form of printed copies or digital media such as CD-ROMs.  Likewise, the right of a phonogram producer to manufacture and distribute compact discs (CDs) containing recorded performances of musical works is based, in part, on the authorization given by the composers of such works to reproduce their compositions in the recording. Therefore, the right to control the act of reproduction is the legal basis for many forms of exploitation of protected works. 

Other rights are recognized in national laws in addition to the basic right of reproduction.  For example, some laws include a right to authorize distribution of copies of works; obviously, the right of reproduction would be of little economic value if the owner of copyright could not authorize the distribution of the copies made with his consent.  The right of distribution is usually subject to exhaustion upon first sale or other transfer of ownership of a copy, which is made with the authorization of the rights owner.  This means that, after the copyright owner has sold or otherwise transferred ownership of a particular copy of a work, the owner of that copy may dispose of it without the copyright owner’s further permission, by giving it away or even by reselling it.

However,  as  regards  rental  of  such  copies,  an  increasing  number  of national  copyright  laws,  as  well  as  the  TRIPS  Agreement,  have  recognized  a separate right for computer programs, audiovisual works and phonograms. The right of rental is justified because technological advances have made it very easy to  copy  these  types  of  works;  experience  in  some  countries  has  showed  that copies were made by customers of rental shops, and therefore, that the right to control  rental  practices  was  necessary  in  order  to  safeguard  the  copyright owner’s  right  of  reproduction.    Finally,  some  copyright  laws  include  a  right  to control importation of copies as a means of preventing erosion of the principle of territoriality  of  copyright;  that  is,  the  economic  interests  of  the  copyright  owner would  be  endangered  if  he  could  not  exercise  the  rights  of  reproduction  and distribution on a territorial basis.

There  are  some  acts  of  reproducing  a  work  which  are  exceptions  to  the general rule, because they do not require the authorization of the author or other owner of rights; these are known as “limitations” on rights. For example, many national  laws  traditionally  allow  individuals  to  make  single  copies  of  works  for private,  personal  and  non-commercial purposes.    The  emergence  of  digital technology,  which  creates  the  possibility  of  making  high-quality,  unauthorized copies of works that are virtually  indistinguishable from the source (and thus a perfect substitute for the purchase of, or other legitimate access to, authorized copies), has called into question the continued justification for such a limitation on the right of reproduction.

Rights of Public Performance, Broadcasting and Communication to the Public 

Normally under national law, a public performance is considered as any performance of a work at a place where the public is or can be present, or at a place  not  open  to  the  public,  but  where  a  substantial  number  of  persons outside the normal circle of a family and its closest social acquaintances is present.

On the basis of the right of public performance, the author or other owner of copyright may authorize live performances of a work, such as the presentation of a play in a theater or an orchestra performance of a symphony in a concert hall. Public  performance  also  includes  performance  by  means  of  recordings;  thus, musical  works  embodied  in  phonograms  are  considered  “publicly  performed” when the phonograms are played over amplification equipment in such places as discotheques, airplanes, and shopping malls.

The  right  of  broadcasting  covers  the  emission  by  wireless  means  for members  of  the  public  within  range  of  the  signal,  whose  equipment  allows reception  of  sounds  or  of  images  and  sounds,  whether  by  radio,  television,  or satellite. When a work is communicated to the public, a signal is diffused by wire or cable, which can be received only by persons who have access to equipment connected to the wire or cable system. 

Under the Berne Convention, owners of copyright have the exclusive right of authorizing public performance, broadcasting and communication to the public of  their  works.    Under  some  national  laws,  the  exclusive  right  of  the  author  or other  owner  of  rights  to  authorize  broadcasting  is  replaced,  in  certain circumstances, by a right to equitable remuneration, although such a limitation on the broadcasting right is less and less common.

Rights of Translation and Adaptation 

The  acts  of  translating  or  adapting  a  work  protected  by  copyright  also require  the  authorization  of  the  owner  of  rights.    Translation  means  the expression  of  a  work  in  a  language  other  than  that  of  the  original  version. Adaptation  is  generally  understood  as  the  modification  of  a  work  to  create another  work,  for  example  adapting  a  novel  to  make  a  motion  picture,  or  the modification of a work to make it suitable for different conditions of exploitation, e.g.,  by  adapting  an  instructional  textbook  originally  prepared  for  higher education into an instructional textbook intended for students at a lower level.

Translations and adaptations are works protected by copyright.  Therefore, in order to reproduce and publish a translation or adaptation, authorization must be obtained from both the owner of the copyright in the original work and of the owner of copyright in the translation or adaptation. Economic  rights  of  the  type  mentioned  above  can  be  transferred  or assigned to other owners usually for a sum of money or royalties depending on the  proposed  usage  of  the  work.  However,  the  second  type  of  rights,  moral rights, can never be transferred. They always remain with the original author of the work.

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