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Slovak Republic: Copyright in the digital age

The most extensive amendment to the Copyright Act, adopted due to the ever-expanding use of information technologies, is to enter into force in January 2016

In Slovakia, copyrights are governed by the Copyright Act. The most extensive amendment to the Copyright Act, adopted due to the ever-expanding use of information technologies, is to enter into force in January 2016. It incorporates significant changes affecting, in particular, the structure and classification of exceptions to and limitations on copyright, contractual relationships covering the creation of works, and the collective management of copyright.

The existing Copyright Act lays down several cases where the author's right for a copyright work to be used only with their consent is limited by law. In these cases, also called compulsory licences, a work may be used without the consent of the author, such as for teaching purposes, or for the disabled. These statutory limitations include reproduction of a work exclusively for private purposes that are not directly or indirectly of a commercial nature, and reproduction of a work by transferring it onto paper or other similar material and then distributing it free of charge to third persons. However, where a work is used in one of these two manners, the Copyright Act provides that the author must receive fair compensation for such use. Manufacturers or importers of products allowing reproductions of works to be saved or stored (such as CDs) are under such an obligation, and the compensation is determined as a percentage of the price of the products (information storage devices) and is remitted to the applicable collective management organisation.

The amended Copyright Act broadens the scope of products for which compensation is paid to the author. The obligation will now apply to all devices capable of creating and storing a reproduction of a copyrighted work, such as tablets, mobile phones and e-book readers. This means that a manufacturer or importer of such products to the Slovak market must pay compensation to the collective management organisation in an amount depending on the price of the specific device (for instance 0.6% of the price for tablets, three percent for fax or e-book readers). For example, for a mobile phone valued at €300 ($334), the author's compensation will be €2.10. This change will likely cause numerous problems in terms of application, as the Copyright Act does not precisely define the devices.

From January 2016, the contract for creation of works, frequently used within the scope of copyright contracts, will be cancelled. Under the new legislation, the contract for creation of works will be superseded by a work created on order under a contract for work, which is governed by specific provisions of the Civil Code.

The amended Copyright Act also introduces new types of licensing agreements: extended collective licensing agreements; multi-territorial licensing agreements; and, economic rights assignment agreements.

Under the extended collective licensing agreement, the collective management organisation representing the greatest number of rightholders in the Slovak Republic will be able to grant the licence acquirer not only the right to use all the works of the represented authors, but also the works of authors not represented by that organisation when those rightholders have not excluded the collective management of these works. The multi-territorial licensing agreement provides for an even greater territorial scope of use. By entering into this type of agreement, the collective management organisation grants consent to the online use of numerous musical works in the territory of more than one member state or contracting state. This type of agreement allows multinational online use of musical works where individual agreements would be impractical.

Another key change is the incorporation of an agreement to transfer an author's economic rights to a third party. Copyright consists of two elements: the author's moral rights to the work; and, the author's economic rights. Both elements are inalienable and cannot be transferred to another party. However, under the new legislation, the author will be able to assign his economic rights to a third party under an agreement to assign economic rights. Under this agreement, a third party will have the right, to a limited extent, to exercise the economic rights in the name of the author. However, the economic rights will remain inalienable.

The new Copyright Act also introduces an agreement on collective management that can be entered into by several collective management organisations, under which they may agree upon the joint performance of their activities. In practice, the existence of this agreement will allow users of works, such as restaurants, hotels and salons, to settle the rights of all the rightholders under one licensing agreement (a one-stop shop).

Daniel Futej, Radka Sláviková Geržová and Jana Kudelcíková

Daniel FutejRadka Sláviková GeržováJana Kudelcíková

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