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This content is taken from the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)'s online course, Copyright and the Business of Creative Industries. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Let’s now take a closer look at individual sectors. There are a few questions that we need to answer. Who are the creators? What are their rights? Who are the other players in each sector? And who owns the copyright? We will stick to common business practices and disregard any exceptions. Remember practices are based on domestic and international regulations. These change from time to time as new technologies create new business models and this leads to changes in the law. In the book sector writers are the creators and the expression “literary works” covers literary and scientific works. The latter is an original text of scientific theory or analysis. What do we mean by original?

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds Two people can write stories on the same topic but the final texts won’t be identical. Each will tell the story in its own way. The legal protection resides in the original form in which the ideas are expressed. Writers own the copyright on their works from the start. Since they create an original work, they own the exclusive right to reproduce and sell copies However a writers primary activity is writing so what help do they need? Writers need publishers. They need someone whose main activity is printing, publishing and selling books. Nowadays book publishers can make books available to the public in any format or media such as paper or digital files. To run their business, publishers of course also need writers.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 seconds That’s why they make publishing agreements together In these agreements, the original copyright owner – the writer – agrees to transfer the right to produce an edition of their work and commercialise it. The publisher acquires these exclusive rights for a certain period of time and therefore has the obligation to effectively publish and promote copies of the book. In exchange for these rights, publishers pay the writers a royalty. The calculation of these royalties are defined in the publishing agreement and generally follow common industry practices. This raises another question. If the object of this publishing agreement is the commercial exploitation of an edition, do writers retain any rights on their original texts?

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds To understand the answer it’s important to separate the literary work created by the writer from the edition that the publishing agreement allows the publisher to produce. with this in mind it clear that writers can still exploit their original work for example by licensing translations or film adaptations.


We are going now deeper in the understanding of the sectors. In this video, our script is based on the following questions:

  • who are the creators?

  • what are their rights?

  • who are the other players of the sector?

  • who owns the copyright?

Watch this video about the book sector.

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This video is from the free online course:

Copyright and the Business of Creative Industries

International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)