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Contracts and right conveyance: How to manage the exploitation of one’s work?

Which contracts apply to copyright? What are the implications of right conveyance?

Who manages the exploitation of a work?

When a lecturer writes a book, when a doctoral student publishes a thesis or when Christo wraps up the Pont-Neuf, they are considered, from a legal stance, as authors of a work.

Therefore, they own copyrights on this work, without having to follow any particular procedure.
Within this frame, it is up to them to manage the exploitation rights on their work, which cover the essential of the author’s property rights.

Archivo:Pont Neuf emballé par Christo (1985).jpg

Image de Airair, "Pont Neuf emballé par Christo / Pont Neuf wrapped by Christo (Paris, 1985)". Licence CC : CC BY-SA 3.0. (source Wikipedia)

Individual management

   Managing a work’s property rights is up to its author, then to their beneficiaries for another 70 years after their death (to their heirs, in that case) or 50 years for related rights. After that time, the work is no longer copyrighted and becomes public property.

   Managing property rights entails the exclusive power to authorise or forbid the exploitation of the work, be it for showing, copying, adapting, translating or borrowing purposes. In the case of an author managing their own rights, it is up to them to authorise any exploitation of his work, and where applicable to collect any financial counterparty.

   The author may also convey the management of their property rights on a work via a deed of free conveyance of their rights or by signing an exploitation rights conveyance contract.

Collective management

This particular type of management being especially difficult to undertake individually, some companies cater for a collective management of copyrights, for instance.
SACEM for music composers or CFC for copying rights and the royalties incurred.

A bit of history…

From 1777 to present

From Beaumarchais to the digital era, over two centuries' experience in managing copyrights

1777 : The first "society" of authors

"On July 3, 1777, on the occasion of a supper to which thirty odd authors were invited, Beaumarchais put forward the proposal to create the first society of playwrights. The struggle he embarked on lead to the legal acknowledgement of copyrights by the French Constituent Assembly on January 13, 1791 (law ratified on January 19, 1791 by Louis XVI).It was the first law enacted worldwide for the protection of authors and their rights: it already stated that "the most sacred, most unassailable and most personal of all properties is the work, born of the writer’s mind". At the initiative of Beaumarchais, twenty-two authors gathered into the first "Dramatic legislation office" and laid the foundations of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers). The latter was founded on March 7, 1829 by aggregating the two offices created in 1791 and 1798". 

Read more on the SACD website