Legal notices and copyright
Appropriate disclaimers and notices must be inserted in precise terms and wherever relevant.
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In general terms, all works such as publications or documents issued by the European Union institutions and bodies, irrespective of the medium, are subject to copyright, whether or not this is explicitly stated, except for works excluded from copyright protection by the relevant applicable law because they do not meet the legal requirements for protection or even if they do, they are subject to legal exceptions. The Internet increasing the potential audience of works displayed online and disseminated through the European Union’s official website ‘Europa’, it is essential to ensure the protection of the European Union's intellectual property rights.
In the same way, the rights of third-party literary or artistic works incorporated in EU websites and electronic documents shall be protected.
Therefore, appropriate disclaimers and notices must be inserted in precise terms and wherever relevant.
Copyright / Ownership
For literary (articles/studies/reports/etc. or excerpts thereof) or artistic (photos/graphs/drawings/etc.) works prepared by EU statutory personnel within the context of their work for the EU institutions or bodies, the copyright vests with the European Union, in accordance with Article 18 of the Staff Regulations of officials of the European Communities:
- All rights in any writings or other work done by any official in the performance of his duties shall be the property of the Community to whose activities such writings or works relate. The Communities shall have the right to acquire compulsorily the copyright in such works.
- Any invention made by an official in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties shall be the undisputed property of the Communities. The institution may, at its own expense and on behalf of the Communities, apply for and obtain patents therefore in all countries. Any invention relating to the work of the Communities made by an official during the year following the expiration of his term of duty shall, unless proved otherwise, be deemed to have been made in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties. Where inventions are the subject of patents, the name of the inventor or inventors shall be stated.
- The institution may in appropriate cases award a bonus, the amount of which shall be determined by the institution, to an official who is the author of a patented invention.
For contributions/articles/studies/reports/etc. prepared by external companies/contractors on commission for EU institutions or bodies, and subject to standard EU service/study contracts, the general terms and conditions stipulate that any results or rights, including copyright and other intellectual or industrial property rights obtained in performance of the contract, shall be owned exclusively by the European Union, except where copyright or any other right of ownership already exists prior to the entering into force of the contract. In this latter case, the company/contractor shall specify the works subject to these pre-existing rights, which are included in the contribution/article/study/report/etc, and shall warrant that it is the owner of these rights or, as the case may be, that it has obtained permission from the copyright holder(s) or from its or their legal representatives to use the works. Furthermore, it shall communicate any terms and conditions linked to the rights it has been granted.
The use by an EU institution or body of contributions/articles/studies/reports/etc. submitted by third-party experts or groups of experts is subject to a ‘publication/translation rights agreement’.
The Commission has a reuse policy regarding its works that is implemented by Commission Decision of 12 December 2011 on the reuse of Commission documents. According to Article 2(1), this Decision only applies to public documents produced by the Commission or by public and private entities on its behalf:
- which have been published by the Commission or by the Publications Office on its behalf through publications, websites or dissemination tools; or
- which have not been published for economic or other practical reasons, such as studies, reports and other data.
This means that this reuse policy does not apply to works created by other EU Institutions or bodies. This difference is reflected in the general copyright notice of EUROPA and in the specific copyright notice of the Commission which are different.
Whenever third-party literary (articles/studies/reports/etc. or excerpts thereof) or artistic (photos/graphs/drawings/etc.) work is included within an EU website or electronic document, whatever the medium, the institution or body shall be responsible for obtaining the author’s or, as the case may be, right-holder's permission in writing and shall pay any fees required for the rights granted and ensure that appropriate acknowledgement is given in the publication.
For this purpose, an agreement setting out basic formal conditions shall be concluded between the DG or other originating department and the author/copyright holder of this material. Whereas the ownership remains with the author/copyright holder, a ‘Publication/translation rights agreement’ not only authorises the EU to use/publish/translate the material, but also authorises the EU to permit further use/reproduction/translation thereof. It also states, if relevant, that the author/copyright holder has obtained unfettered rights for the reuse in his work of materials on which copyright or any other right of ownership already exists. A duly signed original of such agreements shall be kept within the relevant files. For further information, please contact email@example.com.
Moreover, when using third-party material, whether textual or artistic, appropriate acknowledgement must be given to the author/copyright holder thereof (for photos, for example, a concise caption can be inserted). An additional courtesy acknowledgement may be mentioned as follows: ‘Reproduced with kind permission of the author(s)’.
Should, however, an author/copyright holder or his/her legal representative object to any use of his/her textual or artistic works other than dissemination by the EU institutions or bodies within their publication, the originating department shall respect this condition by displaying a relevant notice.
The latter may be printed directly under the third-party copyright acknowledgement as follows: ‘Reproduction is not authorised’, or inserted at a suitably prominent place at the beginning of a publication, as shown below.
- Reproduction of the texts of this [report/study/article/etc.] is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Reproduction of the artistic material contained therein is prohibited.
- [Title of the material] (texts, drawings, photos, audio, video, etc.)
© [name of copyright holder], [year of publication/creation]
For reproduction or use of this work, permission must be sought directly from the copyright holder.
In any case, the originating department is responsible for ensuring that no discrepancy may occur between the rights granted by the copyright holder and the copyright notice covering its publication.
For textual works, it is advisable to add to the copyright notice and qualification a disclaimer regarding responsibility, the form and wording of which is at the originating department’s discretion and adapted to the specific case, as shown in the following examples (for the EU).
- Responsibility for the information and views set out in this [report/study/article/publication/etc.] lies entirely with the author(s).
- The content of this [report/study/article/publication/etc.] does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the [...]/[therein] lies entirely with the author(s).
- The information and views set out in this [report/study/article/publication/etc.] are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Links to external non-EU websites
Any EU institution or body wishing to create a link to a third-party website shall make prior enquiries about the terms and conditions set out on the website concerned, and it shall keep thereto. Furthermore, notifying the webmaster of a third-party website of the creation of a link from the EU ‘EUROPA’ website is considered a matter of ‘netiquette’ and legal caution.
Read more about links to external site.
Copyright issues of websites
For more in-depth information on copyright and other intellectual property rights, related to web sites, please consult the Intranet Copyright website.
For any additional information about Copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights please contact the helpdesk on Copyright in DG COMM at the address COMM-COPYRIGHT@ec.europa.eu.
Copyright issues of publications
For further questions regarding copyright issues related to publications, please contact the Publications Office at the address firstname.lastname@example.org.