If you write a text, create a (digital) work of art or develop a video game, you automatically own the copyright. This right is free and as a creator or author you do not need to register or request anything. It’s good to know that your work is only protected by Copyright Law under these 3 conditions:
- Your work is personal and original: it should not resemble anyone else’s work.
- It can be seen, read, heard or felt. In short, perceptible to the senses.
- It is not a new product or technical process, because that is subject to patent law.
Is someone using your work without your permission? Then the person infringes your copyright and you can take (legal) action. In this article, copyright attorney Bauke van Laarhoven-Severs and NFT expert Dwayne Djontono explain how, as a creator, you can better protect your work in a digital world. In addition, several entrepreneurs talk about what they did when their copyright was infringed.
Since June 7, 2021, stricter copyright rules apply, especially on the Internet. These rules complement the existing European rules and make the differences between the countries of Europe smaller. Creators, for example, receive better copyright protection and fairer compensation. Additionally, major online platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter must monitor, filter, and if necessary, even remove content.
Attorney Bauke van Laarhoven-Severs specializes in the field of intellectual property rights. Copyrights are part of this. According to her, the stricter rules are a challenge for the platforms. “The more active you are as a platform, the more you can be held accountable and accountable for your behavior. Under the law, this type of intermediary is increasingly subject to the obligation to prevent infringements and to more actively monitor certain content, such as tweets. A ‘load filter’ can help with this, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work, or sometimes too often or too quickly. Because all uploads are verified by software, that’s also hard to verify.”
Therefore, the stricter rules are well thought out for manufacturers, but difficult to comply with, according to Van Laarhoven. “In addition, the new law threatens freedom of expression. People don’t want that.”
Day and NFT stamps
To better protect yourself as a creator, it’s important, according to Van Laarhoven, that you can prove exactly when you did your work. “There are many ways to do it, for example with so-called day stamps. All of this can now be done online.” Therefore, he always advises his clients to send an i-DEPOT of a possibly copyrighted work. “You can also try dating with that. So do you want to target someone or are they targeting you? So you can show: I already had it in my hands at this point.”
It is also possible to protect a work of art or digital object, such as this collage by American artist Beeple or Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, with so-called NFTs: non-fungible tokens. These are unique, non-replaceable tokens to link ownership to digital and sometimes physical works. “This adds value to your work, because there is only 1 person with a certificate of authenticity. On the other hand, scarcity is created by selling items.tokenize† Just look at Beeple’s work: in theory anyone can make a digital copy of it. But only 1 person owns the NFT at work and so the real thingDwayne Djontono explains. He is the founder of Sticky Banana, the NFT agency for creators, collectors and inspirers.
According to Djontono, there is still too high a threshold for creatives to jump into the world of NFTs. For example, as an NFT buyer, you do not receive copyright on an item by default, unless stated in the NFT. “Owning an NFT does not mean that the person can also copy or distribute the underlying model, for example by physically printing and selling the model. This requires the permission of the copyright owner first.”
Also, anyone can be an NFT’mint‘ (create) and link it to a design created by you and available online. “That is, of course, a handicap for you as a real creator. Someone else will walk away with your potential income.” Furthermore, there is a very legal gap between what is tolerated and what is not allowed with NFTs. “So you see there’s often a physical object associated with a sale. This is passed on when the NFT is sold. So what we do know is that NFT technology is still very much in development and it is not always clear what is legally possible with it.”
According to Van Laarhoven, an advantage for creators is that they can draw on their copyright. “With this, only you have the right to make your work public and to reproduce it. If someone else is going to do that for you, say by sharing your work online or in a brochure, Copyright Law gives the creator all sorts of rights. Think of compensation, an injunction lawsuit, where the offender has to stop doing what he is doing, or a transfer of benefits to provide information on all kinds of parties and figures involved.”
Because copyright is an intellectual property right, there is also a real regulation of legal costs for this type of case in the Netherlands. “That means that, in principle, the loser also pays the winner’s attorneys’ fees. We have indicative rates for that. A simple summary judgment costs about 6,000 euros, for example. So if he notices someone else using his work, he would definitely seek authority by having a lawyer draft a citation letter. This is also known as a reminder. You will normally be reimbursed for those costs if you win a procedure.”
insurance of your business
However, there is a threshold to litigate: according to Van Laarhoven, he only does so if he is truly sure of his case. “It just depends on how a judge sees a case. Copyright cases belong to a gray area and are very casuistic. My advice: an attorney can give you legal advice up front and do a good assessment.”
SEO specialist Nathan Veenstra, copywriter Suzanne Peters, and language professional Saskia van de Riet have all had to deal with copyright violations. “It can usually be resolved quickly with a summary,” says Veenstra.