What is copyright?


Copyright is a form of intellectual property right. In the Netherlands, copyright is defined in the Dutch Copyright Act. Copyright is the exclusive right of the author of a literary, scientific or artistic work to make the work public or to reproduce it. Uniquely, copyright is automatically established as soon as the work is created. Therefore, copyright does not have to be requested or registered. Copyright lapses 70 years after the death of the author.


A work may be protected by Dutch copyright if it satisfies the following requirements:

  • The work must be an intellectual creation;
  • The work falls within the sphere of literature, science or art;
  • The work must be unique and original;
  • The work must bear the author’s personal stamp.

Examples of works that can normally be protected by copyright are: books, images, journal articles, films, computer programmes, paintings, oral presentations, designs etc.


The author holds the copyright to the work. The actual creator is named as the author of the work, i.e. the person who produced the intellectual work. It is also possible for a work to have several authors. There may also be exceptions to this rule, such as works for hire.

Author’s rights: exploitation rights and personality rights

The author of the work has two exclusive rights: the exploitation rights and the personality rights (also referred to as moral rights). The rights to make the work public or to reproduce it are jointly referred to as ‘exploitation rights’. In addition to the exploitation rights, the author also has personality rights. As the purpose of personality rights is to protect the author’s reputation, they are closely related to the author. For example, the author may oppose the work being made public without mention of his name or under a name other than his own, or any distortion or impairment of the work that could be prejudicial to the author’s dignity or reputation.