Copyright in Malta is regulated by the Copyright Act, Chapter 415 of the Laws of Malta. The last major revision to this Act occurred in 2000 when Malta was on the brink of EU membership.
This latest embodiment of the Maltese Copyright Act brings together all international and European obligations, bringing Maltese law in line with international and European standards.
On the international front, works are protected by Copyright in Malta since Malta is a signatory to the Berne Convention (as revised), and the TRIPs Agreement, the Paris Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
The works that are eligible for copyright protection in Malta are:
- artistic works;
- audiovisual works;
- literary works; and
- musical works.
The Copyright Act grants exclusive rights to the owner of the Copyright, which rights include the direct or indirect, temporary or permanent reproduction by any means and in any form, in whole or in part; the rental and lending; the distribution; adaptation; broadcasting or communicating to the public; and display or public performance. The exclusive rights apply to the totality or substantial part of the protected work, in its original form or any form recognizably derived from the original.
The Copyright Act also provides for the moral rights of authors, and for neighbouring rights. The latter has undergone recent developments with the promulgation of the Extension to Term Protection (Neighbouring Rights) Regulations in 2014. These Regulations transpose the EU’s Directive 2011/77/EU to extend the term of protection for performers and sound recordings from 50 years to 70 years.
The 2004 Control of the Establishment and Operation of Societies for the Collective Administration of Copyright Regulations has overseen the establishment in Malta of the Performing Rights Society – PRS. The UK collecting society is present in Malta via an agent. Maltese PRS members had long argued about the distribution of royalties back to them, with PRS now implementing a more extensive system to scan broadcasts and keep a log of what is being played.
Apart from the provisions of the Copyright Act, Maltese law caters for the enforcement of intellectual property rights, and therefore copyright, by two additional acts of law. One of these acts is the Intellectual Property Rights (Cross-Border Measures) Act, of 2000. This Chapter 414 of the Laws of Malta is a widely-used piece of legislation as it lays down the procedures for Customs officials and rights holders alike to stop counterfeit and pirated goods at their point of entry into Malta.
When it comes to combating infringement, the second additional legislation is relied upon. This is Chapter 488 of the Laws of Malta, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (Regulation) Act of 2006 which transposes Directive 2004/48/EC.
The Maltese Criminal Code also provides for offences related to Copyright infringement. Police officers from the Central Investigation Bureau have been receiving training from the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI). Training with the Economic Crimes Unit at the Malta Police Force is now an ongoing process, which is being provided by local experts who are concerned with the protection of copyright and commercial enterprises, particularly in pirated software and audiovisuals. Seminars on aspects of EU legislation and legal procedures are being provided to members of the judiciary and the Attorney General’s office.