Checklist for clearing rights

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This page is a translated version of the page Checklist voor het klaren van rechten and the translation is 100% complete.
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English • ‎Nederlands

It’s important to clear the rights for pieces of work in your archive and collections if you want to make them available to the public or reuse them.

Clearing rights means establishing if a certain piece of work is subject to copyright, and obtaining permission from the rightsholder or their representative to include it in your archive and/or collections in accordance with the law. This checklist looks at the stages required to clear the rights that may be attached to certain items in your archive. The term ‘author’ is used here in a generic sense, and refers to the creator of all forms of work that are subject to copyright.

When to clear rights?

Rights must be clarified before you start (re)using pieces of work and documents and/or making them accessible. These rights need to be clarified for every possible use. It’s best to do this when creating the content, where possible, as this prevents potentially tricky searches for rightsholders at a later date. You will find an overview of the different types of rights in the You will find an overview of the different types of rights in the Types of rights tool. For more detailed information about clarifying rights, please see the ‘Clearing rights handbook’. tool. For more detailed information about clearing rights, please see the ‘Clearing rights handbook’.

How?

Step 1: Identify the work and author

  • What’s the title?
  • Who is the author?

The work first needs to be identified by title and author(s).

Step 2: Is the work original and is the author still alive?

  • Is the work original? Yes / no
  • Is the author still alive? Yes / no

If the work is original and the author is still alive, you need written permission from the author or their representative. The intended use always needs to be specified here. If the work is not original, it is not subject to copyright and you do not need any permission.

  • If the author is deceased, you need to know when they died.

If it’s an original piece of work and the author has not yet been dead for 70 years, you need written permission for the intended use from their heirs or representatives.

Step 3: Is there more than one author?

  • Is there more than one author? Yes / no
  • How many authors are there?
  • Are any of the authors still alive? Yes / no

If it’s an original piece of work with multiple authors, and at least one of these authors is still alive, you need written permission for the intended use from all the living authors or their representatives.

  • If the authors are deceased, how long ago did they die?

If it’s an original piece of work with multiple authors who have not yet been dead for 70 years, you need written permission for the intended use from all their heirs or representatives. You need to take the longest-living co-author into account here.

Step 4: Has the author incorporated work by a different author in their work?

  • Has the author incorporated other people’s work in their work? Yes / no
  • If yes, has the author of the work clarified the rights it is subject to for its intended use? Yes / no
  • If the rights have not been clarified, can the author of the work claim ‘parody’ when using the other works? Yes / no
  • Who is the author of the works that are incorporated in the work that you want to use?
  • Is the author still alive? Yes / no

If the author has incorporated other works in their work, cannot invoke the legal parody exemption, and has not clarified any rights for the intended use, you also need written permission for the intended use from the author of these other works or their representatives (if the author in question is still alive).

If the author has incorporated other works in their work, invokes the legal parody exemption or assures that rights have been clarified for the intended use, they must agree to indemnify against possible claims from the rightsholders of these other works in the written agreement.

  • If the author is deceased, how long ago did they die?

If they have not yet been dead for 70 years, you need written permission for the intended use from their heirs or representatives.

Step 5: Has the author incorporated work by multiple authors in their work?

  • Is there more than one author? Yes / no
  • How many authors are there?
  • Are any of the authors still alive? Yes / no

If these other works have multiple authors who are still alive, you need written permission for the intended use from all these authors or their representatives. You need to take the longest-living co-author into account here.

  • If the authors are deceased, how long ago did they die?

If these authors have not yet been dead for 70 years, you will also need written permission for the intended use from their heirs or representatives. You need to take the longest-living co-author into account here.

Step 6: Does the work include a photographic reproduction of another piece of work?

  • Does the work include a photographic reproduction of another piece of work? Yes / no
  • Is there written permission from the author? Yes / no
  • Is the author still alive? Yes / no

If you want to use an existing photographic reproduction of a piece of work, you need written permission for the intended use from the author of this reproduction or their representatives. If the author is still alive and you don’t yet have this permission, you need to draw up a written agreement with them or their representatives.

  • If the author is deceased, how long ago did they die?

If the author of the photographic reproductions has not yet been dead for 70 years and you don’t have their written permission, you need to draw up a written agreement for the intended use with their heirs or representatives.

Step 7: Does the work portray a person?

  • Does the work portray a person? Yes / no
  • Is permission required from the person portrayed? Yes / no
  • Are there any privacy issues? Yes / no

If the person portrayed is not a public person (politician, artist, etc.), you need to draw up a written agreement with them or their representatives. If it concerns a public person and involves matters such as their private life, the work cannot be made public without their permission. For commercial use of the image, your organisation also needs to draw up a written agreement with them, even if it concerns a public person.

Step 8: Do you or your organisation already have a current or required licence or an alienation agreement?

  • If the work is protected by copyright, do you or your organisation have a licence or an alienation agreement? Yes / no
  • If yes, what does this licence cover?

If the work is protected by copyright and you already have a licence or alienation agreement in its intended use, you no longer need to draw up a new written agreement with the copyright owner. If you do not yet have a licence or alienation agreement in its intended use, then a written agreement must be drawn up.

  • What (else) do you want a licence to cover?
    • Digitisation?
    • Access for authorised users via a secure network?
    • Free online access via an open network?

It is important to specify the intended use in the new written agreement (or the addendum to an existing written agreement). In order to prevent a further addendum being required at a later date, we recommend defining the intended use as broadly as possible from the outset and drawing up an agreement for both digitisation and access via a secure network and an open network.

Step 9: Who is/are the author(s), rightsholder(s) or their representative(s)?

Who represents the author when drawing up an agreement?

  • The author themselves? Yes / no
    • Is the author certain they have not ceded their rights? Yes / no
  • A representative of the heirs? Yes / no
  • A collective rights management company? Yes / no

It’s important to ascertain who you need to draw up a written agreement with. The author or their heirs may have given their rights to a collective management company. In this case, you do not make a direct agreement with the author or their heirs, but with this company.

When drawing up a written agreement with the author or their heirs, it must be guaranteed that the rights have not been ceded. They must agree to indemnify against possible claims by management companies in the written agreement. You can even include a clause in the agreement to oblige the licensor to terminate membership with the management company if they make a claim.

Step 10: Points for attention when drawing up agreements for specific works

Bibliographical works or works that contain bibliographical works

Bibliographical works are often published by publishers that the author has transferred the publishing rights to. In this case, it is not the author but the publisher who must grant permission.

Musical works or works that contain music

Musical works are often published by music publishers that the author has transferred the publishing rights to. The music publisher can then grant permission in the name of the author.

The producer of a musical recording also has separate (related) rights (for 50 years after it was first recorded) and also needs to agree. If the recording has been shared with the public within 50 years of it first being recorded, this period is extended by 70 years from the moment of public release.

Musicians also have separate (related) rights for a musical recording. If the recording is made available to the public within the first 50 years after creation, the period of protection from their related rights is extended by 70 years from the moment of public release. They therefore also need to agree. In practice, however, musicians often transfer their rights to the producers of the musical recording.

Audiovisual works or works that contain audiovisual work

The law assumes that, unless agreed otherwise, the ‘film director’ and others with a creative input in making the film have transferred their property rights to the producer. In many cases, permission is therefore required from the producer rather than the film director, for example.

The producer of an audiovisual work also has separate (related) rights (for 50 years after the first registration) and so always needs to grant permission – even if it has been agreed that the film director and others who had a creative input in making the film will not transfer their property rights to them.

If the work originates from a broadcast, the broadcaster also needs to grant permission. In this case, actors also have separate (related) rights (for 50 years after the first broadcast) and also need to grant permission. In practice, actors often transfer their rights to film producers.

The related rights for both producers of audiovisual work and broadcasters is extended by 50 years if the work is made public within the first 50 years of creation. This extension starts from the moment it is made public.

Read more

OPENDOEK theatre library has created this step-by-step guide for copyrights (in Dutch) specifically for theatre texts in the amateur arts.

Authors: Bert Lemmens and Rony Vissers (PACKED vzw)