Author: Dr. Fodor Klaudia | 7th February 2020
Copyright protection in Hungary covers creations of literature, science and art, and only those that are individual and have original nature.
There is a long list in the Hungarian Copyright Code specifying, what falls within this circle (literary works, public speeches, computer programs, musical compositions, films, drawings paintings, photos, maps etc.). The ‘etcetera’ is important here: those works of art, science and literature are also protected that are not mentioned here.
I will name you some examples that are NOT CREATIONS and therefore not subject to copyright:
Let’s take an example.
I have an idea making a film about kids having extraordinary powers living in a world full of magic together with regular humans. These children gradually realize their features and they learn to use them appropriately, to save the world against the evil forces. There is a central evil character who wants to destroy their world. But the kids together with their masters defeat the villain.
Amazing story, right?
Oh no, this story is already taken. This is the Harry Potter saga!
No, you might say. This story can only be the classical X-men series!
Or, hold on, it is the TV show Heroes? The Chronicle? Smallville?!?
You are all right. This storyline can belong to any of these films.
This is the reason why the description of a storyline, of the mere acts that happen in a book or a film is not protected by copyright. Because it has no individual character.
If we capture a work’s individual part in another work, then this is the adaptation/copy of the first (of the original) work. The second author’s work will not serve as original regarding these elements.
There are however elements of a work that are not original, and therefore not protected:
‘Blurred lines’ is the title of the song that has recently caused the most relevant court case in this matter in the USA.
Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a lawsuit brought by Marvin Gaye’s descendants, who argued that Pharrell/Robin’s song “Blurred Lines” copied Gaye’s song from 1977 “Got to Give Up” mainly because the authors took over the vibe, the groove of the earlier song.
Some call this a catastrophically bad ruling, since it required that musicians pretend that they had no musical influences.
Photo: Mick O (CC)Robin Thicke wasn’t this happy when he heard the final ruling: 5 million dollars must be paid to the claimants plus a royalty rate of 50 percent of songwriter and publishing revenues.
Does copyright work need to have a certain length or quality?
I’m glad you asked! No!
Once at court I heard a reasoning from a lawyer that electronic music cannot even be considered as copyright work as this is not music just “clapping radiators”.In another case one of my colleagues was complaining, how come that death metal bands can receive royalties because in her opinion their music is abnormal and tasteless.And for many, Fifty Shades of Grey does not reach the level of being a piece of literature…
Further, the length of a work does not matter either.
In a recent court case, the Beijing Internet Court ruled that a 13-second Tik Tok video can also be protected by copyright.
The court ruled that “the length of the video did not necessarily relate to creativity. Objectively speaking, if a video was too short, it could be difficult to form an original expression. However, some authors are still able to achieve originality; in which case, the shorter the video, the more difficult it was to be original, and so the more likely it was that the finished work would actually be a creative one.”
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
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.
Main photo: Braden Kowitz / Flickr (CC)