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Copyright: What Is Copyright?

Review of the copyright rules for teachers, students and researchers

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a right connected to an original work. This applies no matter whether the work is a book, a photograph, a piece of music, a computer program etc. An author's rights to his work are automatically protected by copyright.  Firstly, copyright applies to a moral right where the author must be credited when his work is used (the Danish Copyright Act’s §3). Secondly, copyright applies to an economic right and secures the author the right to sell, copy and distribute his work for financial gain (the Danish Copyright Act’s §2).

In Denmark, you cannot obtain the copyright for an idea, except when it is bound up in a specific physical expression.

The purpose of copyright

The purpose of copyright is to protect original works (of text, music, image, software, etc.) from illegal use and copying. Copyright defines your legal options when using other people´s works and publications. In that sense, copyright is an important part of the knowledge economy and copyright law gives protection both to the person creating a work and to the work itself.

CBS: license agreements and other agreements

What the Law Says

In-depth Literature on Copyright

The book presents Danish copyright law to give both an overview and detailed, specialised knowledge:

  • Presentation of the background for copyright, collective management organizations and international regulations within the field, including EU directives
  • Comments on all the paragraphs in the Danish Copyright Act with comprehensive references to literature and case law. This constitutes the main part of the book.
  • Judgment register and a comprehensive keyword register

The book systematically reviews the EU directives within the field of copyright. The individual provisions in the directives are connected to references to the Danish implementation, summaries of judgments from the European Court of Justice regarding the provisions as well as references to relevant preamble considerations, and when necessary, in-depth comments on the provision are featured. 

The book contains an overall presentation of the Danish regulations concerning intellectual property rights. Among other things, the book covers the following topics:

  • Intellectual property law as a legal discipline, including the societal justification for intellectual property law, its historical development and the most important international collaborations within this field
  • Copyright and related rights
  • Patent law
  • Design law
  • Utility model law
  • Agreements on intellectual property rights
  • Law enforcement of intellectual property rights

The book explains the provisions of the UK Copyright Act and supporting legislation in quick and easy question-and-answer form.

This volume takes the form of an article-by-article commentary on the relevant European directives and international treaties in the field of copyright and neighbouring rights.

Using the Works of Others

The following general rules apply when using the works of others:

  • Copyright always belongs to the person or persons who created the work - whether it is a text, a picture, a lecture, a discussion post, a translation or something else entirely. The copyright protection of a work expires 70 years after the author’s death.
  • After the 70 years have passed, the rules regarding “Droit moral”, also known as moral rights, apply. This means, among other things, that the author has the right to be credited when the work is used and that the work may not be used in an offensive way, see §3 of the Danish Copyright Act.
  • You may reproduce protected works if you have been granted permission by all rights holders (authors, illustrators, publishers etc.) or if you meet the Danish Copyright Act’s exemption provisions, for example §§ 22-24a about quotations and reproduction of works of art.  It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary permissions and to investigate whether exemptions are available.
  • You may – to a certain extent – make copies of works for private use, see the Danish Copyright Act’s §12.
  • Extended collective licensing: if a license agreement with a collective management organization exists, typically a Copydan collective management organization, you are allowed to use an author’s work without asking for permission. The rules that lay down the principles for extended collective licensing can be found in the Danish Copyright Act's §§ 50-52.
    CBS has signed licence agreements with Copydan: that means you to a certain extent may use print material and images in, among other things, teaching activities and assignments.
    CBS Library’s electronic resources, such as e-books, databases and electronic articles, are not covered by the Copydan agreement. They are subject to individually negotiated licences that stipulate exactly how they may be used. However, you may always legally deep link to these resources and in this way share them with others.


The Danish Copyright Act, § 22: “A person may quote from a work which has been made public in accordance with proper usage and to the extent required for the purpose.”

-    should be limited to the most necessary.
-    may only constitute a smaller part of the work that you cite.
-    must serve a purpose in the work that you write.
-    may only constitute a small part of your own work.
-    must be highlighted so it is clearly indicated where the quotation starts and where it ends.
-    must have a reference; you must clearly state the origin of the quotation.

For more information on when you quote and whether you may reproduce the works of others and modify them, read chapter 6, section 11 of the book Ophavsret for begyndere: En bog til ikke-jurister

Works in the Public Domain

“Public domain” means that a work is not protected by copyright, for which reason everyone can in principle use it (references to § in the Danish Copyright Act in round brackets):

  • Works are protected for 70 years after the year of the author’s death (§ 63)
  • Photographic images (§ 70) are protected for 50 years from the recording
  • Performing artists (§ 65) are protected for 50 and sometimes 70 years
  • Sound recordings (§ 66) are protected for 70 years after the recording
  • Radio and TV programmes (§ 69) and films (§ 67) are protected for 50 years
  • Public proceedings etc. are not protected (§ 26)
  • Works that are not subject to copyright, e.g. because someone has posted them for free use on the internet under a Creative Commons licence

Copyright and Creativity

WIPO LEX - Global IP Legal Information


WIPO Lex provides free of charge access to legal information on intellectual property from around the world. Use WIPO Lex Database Search to access 50000 legal documents from among our Laws, Treaties, and Judgments collection

  • Search laws: search for national and regional IP legislation
  • Search treaties: WIPO-administered and IP-related treaties
  • Search judgments: leading judical decisions of national and regional courts on IP

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