Author: Dr. Fodor Klaudia | 14th February 2020

How can I “protect” my work with copyright? The notorious copyright myth about the registration and the © sign

In my previous articles I described the concept of copyright and what are the examples of works protected and not protected by copyright. In this article I will continue with the explanation about how the copyright protection applies. How can you protect something with copyright? Do you need to “register” it or put the © next to it? And what does authorship mean and how do you prove it in accordance with the Hungarian copyright code?

  • TO REGISTER OR NOT TO REGISTER

I have just created the billboard picture above. I took the photo from a dog in the window years ago in Lisbon. I loved his calm contemplation and the perspective of the window. For this blog I framed it in three versions with a photo design app. Some might say that the pink color doesn’t match to it, but I don’t mind. This is my creative piece of art and I like it like that.

What do you think: do I already own copyright on this image?

As a copyright lawyer I hear this question so frequently: Do I need to register my work to have copyright protection on it? Do I need to “copyright” it?

There is good news for all of you: no!

Most probably this myth stems from the US copyright law where there is a copyright authority, and indeed, if you want to protect your copyright before court, you need to have your works registered beforehand.

But not in Hungary and not in Europe. Here you don’t need to register your work anywhere in order to get the copyright protection.

Thus, when I create my piece of art with the dog, I own copyright on it right away.

Art on the stairs. No registration needed. Photo: Klaudia Fodor © (Ronda, Spain, 2010)
  • AUTOMATIC PROTECTION

When a book is written, a movie had its final cut, or a creative content is ready to be posted – the copyright protection automatically covers it. Of course, the work must be a creation of an intellectual activity with individual nature and no duplication of other works (for more details about copyright work, read my earlier article).

In Hungary the copyright protection starts as soon as the creation is done.
No registration procedure is needed, and the author does not have to pay any fee to receive the copyright protection. There is no authority that would grant or withdraw copyright. This all comes from the expectation of an international copyright treaty that we can rely on in Europe.
The protection is automatic because the lawmaker honors the author who can create works with individual nature.
This way the authors are motivated to produce more and more creative works of art, literature and science.
  • OTHER TYPES OF PROTECTION
We should not mix up copyright with trademark protection or patents.
For trademarks and patents, the protection is a result of an application procedure and the applicant must pay a fee.

However, the function of the protection is very different here. Trademark is a tool to ensure the exclusive usage of a brand name, and patent ensures monopoly on worldwide new industrial solutions, patentable inventions.

Intellectual property that is subject to trademarks and patents is usually not a work with individual nature.

Don’t mix up copyright with trademarks. Trademarks are sometimes plain words.
Photo: Klaudia Fodor © (New York, 2010)

  • AUTHORSHIP
What does the authorship mean regarding the copyright works in Hungary?
The person who created the work is the author of the work, and he/she will own the copyright in the work.

If you created a work, you will be its author. If someone else created it, then he or she will be the author. If you two created the work together, then you both will share the authorship and you can further decide about the work together, unless your contributions can be used separately.

I made the billboard picture with the dog and also this writing that you are reading, thus, I am the author of them.

Just like someone’s birthplace or mother’s name

the authorship is a matter of fact: this fact cannot change.
Based on the Hungarian copyright code, authorship can only be changed in exceptional cases. Copyright cannot be sold or transferred; however, it can be inherited.
  • HOW TO PROVE AUTHORSHIP

There is a presumption that the person, whose name is indicated on the work, will be held as the author. Thus, always put your name on your work.

It is possible to prove later that this person is not the author of the work.

When more persons claim to be authors of a work, the court will decide this authorship dispute. How can the court decide this matter without having an official registration of the authorship?

There are several ways to prove your authorship as a matter of fact in Hungary:
  • the author can file a voluntary registration of the work by the Hungarian Authority of Intellectual Property. The date of the application can later prove the day when the author already possessed the work in writing. The application is in Hungarian.
  • the author might send a registered e-mail to himself without opening it. The date of receipt on the envelope has an evidence power too.
  • the author can prove in accordance with the civil procedure act (through witnesses, documents, objects) that he/she created the work.

Once I heard that a claimant won a court case by proving through the unalterable records on his computer’s hard drive the exact time of the creation of the work. Good job!

Authorship disputes are more common than you think, therefore, it is better to have an evidence about your authorship.

  • THE TRUTH ABOUT THE © SIGN

Do I need to put the © sign next to my copyright work?

This presumption also comes from the US copyright law, where earlier copyright owners were required to use the copyright notice © on their works.

Is that a copyright sign © outer space? I don’t think so.
Photo credit: Credit: Flickr / ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

In Hungary, there has never been a requirement to put the © sign next to your work.

It is not necessary to have your works protected. Many copyright owners still choose to do use this sign, because it has factual benefits.

If you share your work online and you want to make it clear that you are the copyright owner of it, the © sign together with your name is a simple way to inform the world about it and create the legal presumption about your authorship. This implies that you “reserve all your rights” over that content and you are the right person to contact if anyone wants to use it.

For example, in this article, I indicated that I am the author of the photos and I put the © sign next to my name.

  • SUMMARY
To wrap it up:
  • if you have a business, where creating is included, and you are concerned that your knowledge about copyright is not deep enough,
  • if you want to collect evidence that you are the author of your creations,
  • if you want to use someone else’s copyright work,
  • if you think, someone infringed your copyright,
and you are active in Hungary, contact me, I can help you to navigate through the maze.
In the upcoming article, I will write about the expiration of the copyright protection.
My mission: I realized that there are many misconceptions about copyright that I call “copyright myths”. Therefore, I have started a copyright awareness raising campaign on social media – the English blog series is one part of it. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the Hungarian contents (#kfodorlegal). Let’s kill copyright myths once and for all. #KillingCopyrightMyths
Dr. Klaudia Franciska Fodor is an attorney-at-law in Budapest, specialized in copyright, real estate and company law. She used to work for the Hungarian copyright organization, Society Artisjus. Don’t hesitate to contact her in civil law related legal matters in Hungary.
Billboard picture with the dog: Klaudia Fodor © (Lisbon, 2012)
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