Copyright is the right of the author of a literary, scientific or artistic work to determine how, where and when his work will be published or reproduced. This right automatically arises when such a work is created.


Initially, copyright was intended for books but, nowadays, it also applies to many other things, such as software, films, recorded music and sculptures and journalistic work. The Dutch Copyright Act contains special provisions for news.


Deliberate breach of copyright is a criminal offence in the Netherlands and may incur a prison sentence. Breaches of copyright can be reported to the police. In reality, breaches are seldom prosecuted, unless they are a large-scale, deliberate infringement. In this case, civil action may be taken.


Article 1 of the Dutch Copyright Act 1912 defines “copyright” as follows:
“Copyright is the exclusive right of the author of a literary, scientific or artistic work or his successors in title to communicate that work to the public and to reproduce it, subject to the limitations laid down by law.”


According to the Dutch Supreme Court in the Van Dale/Romme ruling, any original creation which bears the unmistakeable stamp of its creator is a work protected by copyright. In the Scientology ruling, the court found that copyright does not always take precedence over freedom of speech.