I want to break free! A short explanation about the concept of copyright
I want to break free! A short explanation about the concept of copyright

Author: Dr. Fodor Klaudia | 31st January 2020

I want to break free! A short explanation about the concept of copyright

My mission: I realized that there are many misconceptions about copyright that I call “copyright myths”. Therefore, I have started a copyright awareness raising campaign on social media – the English blog series is one part of it. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the Hungarian contents (#kfodorlegal). Let’s kill copyright myths once and for all. #KillingCopyrightMyths

I would like to explain to you as simple as possible why copyright protection ‘makes sense’.
I’ll start with a tangible example.
You know Queen’s classical song: “I want to break free”. Sure, everyone from the North Pole to South-America knows this song. I am sure, just by mentioning it, Freddy Mercury already started to sing it in your head. “I’ve fallen in love…! I’ve fallen in love for the first time, And this time I know it’s for reeeeeal!”
This is a work undoubtedly protected by copyright.
Its songwriter is the band’s bass guitarist, John Deacon. The song was released in 1984 and became part of the world’s pop music legacy. It will never be deleted from our minds. Does this mean, we own this work?
We all ‘possess’ the song, but it does not mean, we can use it. Because of copyright.

Any result of an intellectual work is like information. It is hard to produce, but it is easy to share. Especially today, when through clicking some buttons, the same information can reach thousands of people.

The law defines what is protected by copyright. The law defines the level of creativity that must be reached, the types of works and defines the exceptions as well. Only the law defines the circle what can be fall within this protection.

The concept of copyright is that there is a circle of some special, precious, creative intellectual works that are worth being protected.

Copyright protection is a priority: it means that the right holder can prohibit others from using his works. This is practically a market monopoly covering those works.

The law defines what is the level of expectation that must be present in order to enjoy being in that prioritized circle of the copyright protected works.

Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ is in that circle of precious creations. Therefore, if we want to use the song, we need to ensure that we have appropriate license from its right holders.

We know the song, so we can sing it in the shower, with our friends, listen to it from a CD or watch the new Queen film on our television. No problem, no permission is needed here.

There is however

a level of ‘enjoyment’ of a work protected by copyright that considers as ‘exploitation’ of the work.

If we sing the song in a live show in a club, on a festival, the song is broadcasted on tv or we want to include it into our promo video and post it to the internet – well, we need the right permission to do that.

It is the law again defines what is considered as exploitation. The consideration behind it is – roughly – that exploitation is a usage that goes beyond the personal, non-commercial enjoyment of the works. But it should in each individual case be checked in the copyright act.

Ok, but why does Queen need that protection. They are probably happy with having a popular song that everyone wants to hear, aren’t they?

The core concept of the protection is that creators receive the right income and that the production of further copyright works is enhanced.
Once this song had reached the public in 1984, everyone could have automatically benefitted from it. The song was shared like a piece of information, and within days it reached masses in the world. Without copyright protection, no penny would have ever been paid to the author for using this song in movies or on the radio, because no one pays for something that is already at disposal for free.
A good can only be sold if the access to it is limited. A shortage must artificially be created on the work (information) that everyone already possesses.

From an economical point of view this is the explanation why a legal protection, a restriction of access is needed.

Copyright protection muffles the work in an abstract way that is already made public, spread out all around the world. Therefore, it is called ‘protection’.

Even if we have been ‘possessing’ the referred song for 35 years, royalty must be paid on each relevant use. Why?

Because the law says so.

This is crazy, you probably think. We must pay every time we use a Queen song although it is in our head, on Youtube, on TV…? Yes, this is roughly the case, although in this blog series I will explain some nuances and the limits of copyright protection as well.

To wrap it up: The songwriter John Deacon receives royalty if his music is exploited. This probably has kept him motivated to write other amazing Queen songs that the world can enjoy. This is a win-win situation.

The whole creative industry rests on the concept of copyright.
Those who invest money into making films, theatre plays, or software, would like to ensure that their investment will be paid back by those who exploit these works. Without copyright, all these works would be up for grabs for free. This would certainly keep the creative industry back from putting more money into making fun contents for us.
In the online world, the importance of copyright protection is bigger than ever
because it is much harder to ensure the “artificial shortage” of the works there.
In this blog series I will explain in details which works are protected by copyright, how long does the protection last, what rights do authors possess and how users can use works of other – all this in an easy-to-comprehend manner based on Hungarian copyright law.
As for the closing, listen to the referred Queen song and sing it in the shower as loud as you can.
Stay tuned for the next article, where I will write about the types of works protected by copyright.

Dr. Klaudia Franciska Fodor is an attorney-at-law in Budapest, specialized in copyright, real estate and company law. She used to work for the Hungarian copyright organization, Society Artisjus. Don’t hesitate to contact her in civil law related legal matters in Hungary.