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  • 3.1 Rights Transferred to the Employer
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The transfer of copyright, which arising from the provisions of the Employment Contract or Copyright Act, applies to both the computer program and any directly related works. Works directly related to a computer program include, among others, text files and other documentation. The provision grants the employer the exclusive right to control all economic rights to the extent required by the ordinary conduct of its business. Thus, the provision grants the employer the right to adapt the work and transfer rights in certain cases without limitations (e.g. to its partners). [1]

Copyright is a discretionary right, and subject to agreement. Copyrights to computer programs, too, can be transferred by contract. Thus, it can be agreed upon, that the employee's copyright to a computer program is not transferred to the employer or that it is transferred only partially to a lesser extent than provided for in the Copyright Act. [2]

Teaching and Research in Universities

The copyrights to computer programs and directly related works created by autonomous authors in the course of university teaching or research activities are not transferred to the employer [3]. This is the case if the author is a researcher or a teacher. Also, the research work must be carried out autonomously. As a rule, rights related to commissioned research assignments are transferred to the employer. This is because during commissioned research work, the researcher works under the employer's direction and supervision and therefore it is logical to apply provisions that relate to ordinary employment. This exception applies to researchers and teachers in universities but not in universities of applied sciences. [4]


Master and Margarita, a work by Nuno Correia, researcher at Media Lab.

In practice, it can be rather difficult to determine whether a particular activity falls within the scope of the exception or not [5]. To avoid disputes over interpretation, all rights should be agreed upon case by case and project by project.

A company or some other legal person can never be the author in the meaning of the Copyright Act. The programmer has the discretionary right to transfer his copyrights to a company. Drafting only specifications or guidelines does not create copyright to a computer program. For example, drafting and designing computer program architecture, definitions and specifications as part of a software project does not create copyright to the computer program created during the project. In this case, too, the copyright is created by the physical person who actually writes the source code. [6]

According to the Copyright Council's opinion 2007:3, drafting specifications does not create copyright to the computer program created on their basis. [7]

Notes and References

[1] Copyright Act 40 b § 1

[2] Haarmann (2005): Tekijänoikeus ja lähioikeudet, Talentum, Helsinki.

[3]Copyright Act 40 b § 2

[4] Copyright Council¿s opinion 2007:3

[5] Kontkanen (2006): Tekijänoikeudet yliopistotutkimuksessa ja opetuksessa, Helsingin yliopisto. (google)

[6] Harenko – Niiranen – Tarkela (2006): Tekijänoikeus, kommentaari ja käsikirja, WSOYpro, Helsinki.

[7] Copyright Council¿s opinion 2007:3