Apr 14, 2022

The authors of the work, in addition to the rights of a personal nature, i.e. the right to mark your work with your own name and surname or a pseudonym, you also have ecomonic rights. In a situation where copies of the worka re distributed to consumers not by the author himself, but with the use of a third party like a book publisher, building investor or producer of decorative posters, it is necessary to establish the rules of cooperation and settlements between the author of the work and the entrepreneur making profits from his work.


There are three main possible scenarios for the broadly understood economic relations between the author of the work and the entrepreneur using it.


First of all, it is possible that there is an employment relationship between the author of the work and the entity using the works. In such a situation, if the employee was obliged to produce products of a specific type under the employment relationship, the employer is entitled to economic copyrights to the work. The employee is then not entitled to any additional remuneration for creating a work covered by copyright, of course, unless the employment contract provides otherwise. The employee cannot also prohibit the employer using his work. It is important, however, that in order for the employer to be able to effectively invoke the exclusive proprietary copyrights to the work created by the employee, he must distribute it within 2 years from the acceptance of the work, otherwise, after the employee has set an appropriate date, full copyright goes back to the worker – the creator. However, it should be borne in mind that the parties to the employment contract may decide otherwise, therefore in the case of creative creators it is particularly important to consult a legal advisor before signing a contract with an employer.




By way of an agreement on the transfer of copyrights to a work, all of the author’s property rights may be transferred to a third party for a certain fee or free of charge. This is the broadest form of transferring economic copyrights, however, as in the case of a license, it is necessary to establish the fields of exploitation covered by this agreement. It should be borne in mind that the contract of transfer of rights may only cover those fields of use that were known to the parties at the time of concluding the contract. Thus, even if the parties in the contract indicated that the contract covers all fields of exploitation, such a provision will not cover those fields that arose or became known only after the the contract was signed. To illustrate this issue, let’s imagine a situation in which the parties (the author and the buyer of rights) conclude a contract of transferring economic copyrights to a work in the form of a book, before the form of electronic books was known as the so-called e-books, and all books available at that time were only in paper form. In such a situation, the contract from before the  e-books era cannot be the legal basis for the buyer to distribute the book in the form of an e-book. The buyer who does so without entering into another contract with the creator does it illegally.

There are still many nuances in the contract of transfer of rights that the attorney-at-law preparing such a contract must pay attention to. In particular, the issue of remuneration – by default, the act provides that authors who transfer copyrights to a work should be remunerated, and if the parties to the contract, however, agree on a free transfer of rights, they must clearly indicate this circumstance in the contract. Importantly, the contract itself must be concluded in writing. Failure to comply with this form means that the contract is invalid.


The license agreement is in many respects similar to an assignment agreement. It can be said that it is an excerpt from such an agreement and, as a result, only part of the rights of the author is granted to the buyer of copyright to the work, it is concluded for the period specified in the contract, and the parties may terminate it.

The license agreement does not always require a written agreement. It is therefore possible to prove before the court that the parties have concluded an oral license agreement and pursue claims on the basis of this agreement. Only the contract under which the buyer obtains the exclusive right to use the work in specific fields of use must be concluded in writing for its validity. The duration of the contract may be fixed (in days, months or years) or indefinite. If the parties do not establish the duration of the contract, the law provides that the contract has been concluded for a period of 5 years.

A contract concluded for an indefinite period may be terminated within the time limits set out in the contract, and if the parties have not made any arrangements in this regard, the notice period is 1 year from the end of the calendar year in which the notice was submitted.


Both authors and entrepreneurs acquiring economic copyrights (licensees, buyers of proprietary copyrights, heirs) face numerous legal problems, most often related to the amount of remuneration for granting or transferring rights or the method of performing the contract by the other party.

It is possible that the author and the buyer of the rights in the contract transferring the copyright to the work will agree for a low remuneration, compared to the profits that the buyer then obtains from the work of the creator. If this disproportion is gross, the author may demand a court increase in remuneration.

A frequent problem is also the issue of the possibility of making changes to the work and its elaboration by the acquirer of economic copyrights. The authors very often wrongly think that the buyer of their rights cannot make any changes. In their arguments, they refer to the provision of Art. 46 of the Act on Copyright and Related Rights, which by a person who is not a legal advisor specializing in copyright, may be understood as if the acquirer could not exercise derivative copyright, while this provision prohibits that to entities further than the acquirer. Therefore, unless the contract of transfer of rights provides otherwise, the acquirer of economic copyrights may not conclude a contract with another entity and allow him to modify the work and benefit from it.


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