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The economic rights are protecting the copyright holder's interests to exploit their work, under the terms the copyright holder consider appropriate. The economic rights cover reproduction, making a work available to the public and adaption. In the following, these three aspects are further opened up.


Overview of Economic Rights for Computer Programs

5.1 Reproduction

Within the limits imposed in the Copyright Act, copyright gives its holder the exclusive right to control the work by reproducing it [1]. Partial and full, direct and indirect, and temporary and permanent duplication of a work are considered reproductions, regardless of the method or format employed. Reproduction rights, or copying rights, are rather extensive and cover basically all the ways in which a computer program can be copied nowadays. For example, according to the directive on the legal protection of computer programs, authorization by the author is required when the copying involves "loading, displaying, running, transmission or storage of the computer program" [2].


5.2 Making a Work Available to the Public

Copyright gives the rightholder the exclusive right to make the work available to the public. According to the Copyright Act, a work is made available to the public when it is performed in public, when copies of it are offered for sale, rental or lending, or are otherwise distributed to the public and publicly exhibited. The aim has been to include in the Copyright Act all the current means that can be used for making a computer program or some other work available to the public. [3] With regard to computer programs, this often relates to selling and renting copies of the program.

The exclusive nature of the right applies only to making the program available to the public, i.e. when the group of users is sufficient. In case law, "the public" has been interpreted as a group of users which is not predetermined [4]. In other words, this refers to a situation where basically everyone can access the work.

In exception, the exclusive right to make the work available to the public applies only to the first instance in which the copy in question is sold, when this is done with the copyright holder's consent [5]. Consequently, copies of the work in question may be further transferred without the copyright holder's consent. The exception applies to selling only. If a copy of a work is transferred in some other way, for example, by licensing the exclusive right does not expire, because this case represents a transfer of exploitation rights. In practice it may be difficult to determine whether a particular case involves selling or transferring the exploitation rights. However, the actual nature of the transfer is decisive. Transferring a copy of a work to a buyer without limiting the period of use in any way, is considered selling the work [6].


5.3 Adaptation

The copyright holder has the exclusive right to dispose of the work by making copies of it and by making it available to the public, in either the original or an altered form, in translation or adaptation, in another literary or artistic form or by other technical means [7]. Thus, the rightholder's exclusive right extends to computer programs that have been altered in any way described in the Act. The Copyright Act recognizes three types:

  • Minor alteration of the work that does not exceed the required level of originality. This type of alteration does not express creativity and is not essential from the right holder's point of view. The person making the alterations has no rights over the altered work, and consequently, it is not in the interest of the right holder to prohibit such alteration of the work, ad has not the right to do so. For example, correcting minor misspellings can be considered minor alteration of a work.
  • Alteration leading to an adaptation where the person making the alterations holds copyright to the adaptation. The person making the alterations may not impose restrictions on his own work in a way that infringes on the copyright of the original work. In other words, the rights of the person making the alterations are secondary to the rights of the original right holder. This is why the person making the alterations needs permission from the right holder of the original work to create an adaptation. For example, adding new functions to a computer program could constitute alteration leading to an adaptation.
  • Free adaptation that leads to a completely independent new work. Copyright does not extend to ideas, and using original works as inspiration is allowed. In this case, the person creating the adaptation holds copyright to his work independent of the original work's copyright. According to legal literature, for example algorithms can be rewritten through free adaptation. This can be done by creatively writing a shorter and faster algorithm or using a programming language that has a completely different syntax.

Notes and References

[1] Copyright Act 1 §

[2] DIRECTIVE 2009/24/EC

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

[4] Harenko – Niiranen – Tarkela (2006): Tekijänoikeus, kommentaari ja käsikirja, WSOYpro, Helsinki. p. 35

[5] Copyright Act 19 §

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

[7] Copyright Act 1 §