The function of the copyright law is to protect works of literature, music, arts and film and to allow an effective enforcement of the – immaterial and financial – interests of the authors and originators. According to the Austrian Copyright Act, copyright arises with the creation of a work by its originator. No formal act (notification or registration) is required in order to obtain copyright protection for a work. According to paragraph 1, such works must be “personal intellectual creations in the fields of literature, music, visual arts and film”.
The legal basis is the Copyright Act, the 2015 amendment that aimed to improve artists’ income situation, in particular by including all types of storage media in the payment for blank cassettes. After years of legal uncertainty and non-transparent regulations, the amendment implemented a modern copyright law for the fair payment of intellectual services provided by artists. The amendment also ensures that users have the right to make private copies of legally acquired, copyrighted works for their own use.
Remuneration rights are usually managed by collecting societies that function as rightholders’ trustees. They grant licences for the use of works, demand royalties and distribute the proceeds to the rights holders. The copyright collecting societies (e.g. AKM, Austro Mechana, Literar Mechana, Bildrecht, VDFS (Film) i.a.) are regulated by the Collecting Societies Act (Verwertungsgesellschaftengesetz, VerwGesG) that has been amended in 2016 according to EU requirements. In 2019, Austria approved the EU copyright reform, which must be transposed into national law within the next two years.
An author’s claim to funds collected via public lending rights from public libraries is also part of the Copyright Law and administered by the authors’ collecting society LiterarMechana. In 1996, an annual lumpsum payment between the federal government (116 276 EUR), the Federal Provinces (465 106 EUR) and the authors’ rights society was contractually agreed.
Austrian film copyright law was also amended in 2016. It previously provided that authors’ rights to commercially produced film works and the rights of actors to them ex lege were transferred to the film producer (cessio legis). Taking into account the requirements of the European Court of Justice, a presumption regulation based on the German model was implemented in 2016. The transfer of authors’ rights to film producers is therefore refutably presumed.
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