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Copyright protection is afforded under Maltese law through Chapter 415 of the laws of Malta: the Copyright Act (the “Act”). Normally, a copyright would be vested in the author of the original work; however certain exceptions may exist in instances where work is created under employment or commission.
Eligibility for Copyright Protection
Copyright and other neighbouring rights, are movable property rights that may be transferred or assigned by means of an agreement in writing, by operation of the law or otherwise by a testamentary disposition. In this regard, irrespective of whether copyright or a neighbour right, is transferred or assigned, the author would always retain rights at law in connection with the public use of such work and on the copies thereof.
In line with the Act, original works which are eligible for copyright protection include artistic, audio-visual, literary, and musical works, and databases. For musical, literary, or artistic works to be deemed eligible for copyright protection, these must necessarily be of an original character and duly written down, recorded, fixed, or otherwise reduced to material form. Copyright protection does not extend to ideas, procedures, methods of operations or mathematical concepts.
Once the essential elements established at law are satisfied copyright protection is automatically afforded such that one would not need to register their copyright (as would be the case when it comes to trademark, patent or design protection for example).
Rights available under Copyright Protection
Copyright protection grants exclusive rights to authors in the sense that they can authorise or prevent third parties from reproducing their work or a substantial part thereof, and additionally they can adapt, translate, alter, distribute, lend, rent, communicate, or display such works to the public. Similar ‘neighbouring rights’ are given to performers and producers of sounds duly recorded, producers of audio-visual works, and to broadcasters when it comes to their performances, audio-visual works, broadcasts, and sound recordings.
When it comes to copyright protection in the sphere of architectural work, the author shall have the right to authorise or otherwise prevent the erection of any building reproducing the whole or a substantial part of the original work. Interestingly, however, copyright does not afford protection with respect to the re-construction, in the same style as the original, of a building to which that copyright relates. Similarly, copyright protection does not allow one the authority to prevent rental or lending of buildings or works of applied art.
Duration of Copyright Protection
Literary, musical, and artistic works, and databases are afforded copyright protection for seventy years after the end of the year following which the author passes away, and this irrespective of when the work is made available to the public. As for audio-visual works, these are afforded copyright protection for seventy years after the end of the year in which the last of the following people passes away: the principal director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue, and the composer of music created for use in the audio-visual work. As for literary, musical, or artistic works which are anonymous or pseudonymous or in the case of collective work, copyright protection is afforded until the end of the expiration of seventy years from the year in which same is lawfully made available to the public.
Performers’ rights, producers’ rights on sound recordings and audio-visual works, and broadcasters’ rights conferred by the Act, have a duration of fifty years from the end of the year in which the work (that is: the fixation of the performance, the sound recording, or the fixation of the audio-visual work) was first published or communicated to the public or otherwise the end of the year in which it was first performed or otherwise the fixation first made, or the broadcast first transmitted.
With respect to databases specifically, same would only be eligible for copyright protection if by reason of their selection or arrangement of its contents, they constitute the author’s intellectual creation. Should a database be deemed eligible for copyright protection, the said protection would not cover the contents thereof. It should be noted that there are other sui generis rights applicable in respect of database and semiconductor product topographies. For further information in this respect please contact us.
How does one qualify for Copyright Protection in Malta?
For one to qualify for copyright protection under the Act in Malta, the author must be either a citizen, domiciled in or permanently resident in Malta or otherwise an entity constituted, established, registered, and vested with legal personality under the laws of Malta (or any other country where copyright is protected by virtue of an international agreement to which Malta is a party to).
Importantly the Act also grants authors the right to prohibit the mutilation, modification, distortion, or the subjecting to derogatory treatment of any of their work.
In understanding the level of protection afforded with respect to copyright, it is clear that the law seeks to strike a balance between an author’s rights in works created and the public’s interest to have such works reasonably accessible. Copyright protection is afforded for a limited time period, such that eventually a work would become public domain.
Whilst copyright, neighbouring rights, and sui generis rights’ protection may be afforded across various countries, each jurisdiction will have its particular individual provisions at law, and it is for this reason that, anyone wishing to understand what type of protection their work may be afforded under Maltese law or otherwise wishing to use works of other individuals or entities, is advised to contact our legal professionals for further guidance and advice. Our team also offers advice on any copyright infringement matters and assists with the drafting of agreements for the purposes of transferring or assigning any copyright or neighbouring right as is permitted at law.
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