5.2.8: 1910 - heden - Copyright and piracy

In the course of the nineteenth century, the emphasis in the rules concerning printing and reprinting shifted from publisher to author, resulting in the term 'author's copyright'. Those rules underwent important changes after the Netherlands joined the Berne Convention (1866) resulting in the Copyright Act of 1912. The position of the creator was improved in both aspects of copyright (utilisation and moral rights). Copyright now immediately became applicable when an original work was created (it no longer had to be requested from the authorities). Creators in countries that had signed the Berne Convention had copyright protection in all member states. He or she was still able to transfer copyright, but this had to be done by means of a written agreement.

The new Copyright Act, however, still did not lay down many conditions to which the person marketing the work was required to adhere with respect to the creator. The act did not oblige remunerations, and did not specify the form in which payments had to be made (i.e. a single payment or a percentage of the profits), let alone mention the actual sum. In these circumstance, book publishers tried to gain the best position possible. Particularly in genres other than literary works, publishers usually demanded the creator transfer copyright entirely. After all, they were investing a lot of money in the work and had an important say in the contents. In the literary sector, the writers put up more resistance right from the start, for instance with their Vereeniging van Letterkundigen (Association of Writers, VVL) (1905). For years and years the VVL fought for a better position in publication agreements. Not until 1961, however, did they actually achieve results with the publication of a 'Guideline' by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Uitgeversbond (KNUB). In 1973 the VVL reached agreement with the Groep Algemene Uitgeverijen (General Publishers' Group) regarding the so-called 'Standard agreement for the publication of original Dutch literary work'. The agreement (modernised in later years) was not compulsory for publishers or authors, but was widely accepted and entailed an author's fee of at least 10%. In the course of the twentieth century, the 1912 Copyright Act was amended a number of times, for instance to include provisions for the inclusion of texts in anthologies. Any payment of fees to authors or publishers for library lending did not occur until 1970. This issue was finally resolved in 1993 with an amendment to the Copyright Act. At first it was the Stichting Leenrecht (Lending Rights Foundation) who divided the library fees among publishers and authors, later this was done by the LIRA Foundation.

After 1945, both authors and publishers began to take action more often against copyright violations (for instance authors acting against unfair exploitation by publishers or publishers acting against illegal editions, piracies etc.). In some cases the courts were involved, in other cases the parties reached a settlement out of court. A notorious case at the end of the twentieth century was the objection of a number of critics (led by Hans Warren) to their literary criticisms being included on CD-ROM. After the courts intervened, the parties eventually came to an agreement.

author: F.D.G. de Glas

Copyright and piracy