Dutch copyright law is part of the Dutch Copyright Act.
In the Netherlands, copyright automatically applies to researchers who write a research report or publish an article, PhD candidates who write a dissertation, students who write a thesis or a paper or give a presentation, and teachers who reuse copyright protected materials in Brightspace.
According to Article 1 of the Dutch Copyright Act: “Copyright is the exclusive right of the author of a literary, scientific or artistic work or his successors in title to disclose the work to the public and to reproduce it, subject to the exceptions laid down by law”.
In other words, copyright gives the author the right to express, publish, display, distribute and copy his or her own work. These rights are called ‘exploitation rights’ (see question below: What can I do with my copyright?). The author also has moral rights (see question below: What are moral rights?).
Copyright applies to ‘works’. To be protected by copyright, a work needs to be original. That is, the work is the author’s own intellectual creation. Furthermore, the work needs to be expressed. An idea that you have not yet expressed is not protected by copyright. Article 10 of the Dutch Copyright Act gives several examples of a work. In general, everything that has a creative aspect in it can be considered copyright protected, such as a book, a blogpost, a photograph, a talk, a journal article, software, an app, a chair, a building or a window decoration.
However, research data is not protected by Dutch copyright law. If the data is housed in a database, this database and the data in it is, in most cases, protected by ‘Database rights’. Database rights protect the creator of a database against retrieval (also known as milking) or re-use of a substantial part of the database. The creator has to make a substantial investment in building the database to obtain protection.
A work’s author or maker (see question above: What is copyright and what is protected?) is automatically granted copyright as soon as the work is expressed. An author does not need to register or to apply for copyright. Copyright may also be owned by two or more people who co-create a work. See Ownership & Licences for more information and the situation at WUR.
Copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death if the author has no successors. If you want to use materials, you must check if the work is protected by copyright. When the copyright is expired, the work has entered the public domain (see question below: What is the public domain?).
Copyright gives the author the right to express, publish, display, distribute and copy his or her work. These rights are called ‘exploitation rights’. Copyright law enables the author to decide how and if others can use the work. For example, only the copyright owner can put a CC-licence on a work.
Exploitation rights can be transferred to another party. This is the case when a chapter of a PhD thesis is published. The contract that is signed during the dissertation’s publication process determines whether none, all or a part of the copyright will be transferred to the publisher.
According to Dutch copyright law, if you do not own a work’s copyright, you cannot use this material in your work. There are, however, exceptions, such as the right to cite and reference or the right to use copyright protected material to teach. If no exception applies, you should ask the owner for permission to use the work (see question: What is a licence? on the page Ownership & licences). The original author of a work also has moral rights (see question below: What are my moral rights?).
If you find something on the internet, such as on Wikipedia, through Google or through WUR Library Search, this does not automatically mean that this material is free to use. It may be protected by copyright. Copyright may be indicated by the symbol © or by the statement “all rights reserved”. However, these copyright indications are not in every work. Generally, you should consider that everything online has a creative aspect to it, such as a book, a blogpost, a photograph, a talk, a journal article and is copyright protected, unless the works are in the public domain (see question below: What is the public domain?).
In some cases, the work is made available under an open licence. This licence often lists what you may do with the work. Works with, for example, a CC-licence are still copyright protected but may be reproduced and made available under the CC-licence terms (see question: What are creative commons licences? on the page Ownership & licences).
A work enters the public domain when it is not protected by copyright because the author chose not to copyright it (e.g., by a CC-0 licence) or because the work’s copyright has expired and the work is now in the public domain. A work in the public domain can be used, reproduced, modified and made publicly available without permission of the original author. However, you still need to acknowledge your sources by correctly citing and referencing them. Moreover, journal articles that are published open access are not automatically part of the public domain. Works with, for example, a CC-licence other than CC-0 (see question: What are creative commons licences? on the page Ownership & licences) are still copyright protected but may be reproduced and made available under the CC-licence terms.
Finally, in the Netherlands, laws, decrees, judicial and administrative decisions are free of copyright. A work owned and made publicly available by the Dutch government may be used without permission, unless stated otherwise in the publication.
Copyright law is only one of the intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights also cover patents. Patents protect new technological inventions. The Servicedesk IP is a central department that advises on protection of intellectual property and manages the patent portfolios for Wageningen University & Research. They also handle the applications for new patents. If you have any questions about patents, trademarks, model rights, plant breeders rights, contact the Servicedesk IP (Intranet only).
Intellectual property rights also cover databases. Research data is not protected by Dutch copyright law, but if the data is housed in a database, this database and the data in it are, in most cases, protected by ‘Database rights’. Database rights protect the creator of a database against retrieval (also known as milking) or re-use of a substantial part of the database. The creator has to make a substantial investment in building the database to obtain protection.
Last updated on 15/04/2020.