Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

Law on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights: Protecting Creative Works in the Digital Age

In the digital age, where information flows freely, copyright and neighbouring rights are crucial for creators, consumers, and everyone. These legal concepts form the foundation of intellectual property protection, ensuring that creators are duly rewarded for their work while allowing the sharing of knowledge and culture. copyright and neighbouring rights, demystifying their significance, scope, and impact on various stakeholders.

What is Copyright?

 The right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and adapt the work. Copyright incentivizes creators to produce new content by ensuring they have control over its use and can benefit from its exploitation.

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

The Scope of Copyright

Copyright covers many creative works, including literary, artistic, and musical works, software, architectural designs, and more. It protects for a specified period, allowing creators to enjoy the financial rewards of their creations.

Neighbouring Rights Defined

Distinguishing Between Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Copyright and neighbouring rights are related but distinct legal concepts that govern intellectual property, particularly in creative works. These terms refer to different aspects of intellectual property protection, and it’s important to understand their differences.

  • Copyright:
    • Subject Matter:

 Copyright primarily covers literary, artistic, and intellectual creations in a fixed, tangible form of expression. This includes books, music, films, software, paintings, and other original creations.

  • Scope: 

Copyright provides exclusive rights to the creators (or their heirs/assignees) to reproduce, distribute, perform, and adapt their works. Depending on the jurisdiction, these rights typically last for the creator’s lifetime plus an additional 50 to 70 years after their death.

  • Infringement

Infringement occurs when someone uses the copyrighted work without permission, violating the copyright holder’s exclusive rights.

  • Neighboring Rights (also known as related rights or neighbouring rights):
    • Subject Matter: 

Neighbouring rights are related to copyrighted works but are not held by the original creators. These rights are often associated with performances, recordings, and broadcasts of copyrighted content.

  • Scope: 

Neighbouring rights are typically granted to performers (e.g., musicians, actors), phonogram producers (record labels), and broadcasting organizations. These rights cover aspects like the public performance and broadcast of recorded music, audiovisual content, and live performances.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

  • Infringement:

 Infringement of neighbouring rights occurs when someone uses these rights without proper authorization, which might involve unauthorized distribution or broadcasting of performances or recordings.

Here are some key distinctions between copyright and neighbouring rights:

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights
  • Ownership:

 The original creators of the work hold copyright, while performers, record labels, or broadcasting organizations hold neighbouring rights.

  • Subject Matter:

 Copyright covers the creation, while neighbouring rights focus on the performance, recording, or broadcast of copyrighted works.

  • Duration:

 Copyright generally lasts for a longer duration than neighbouring rights. Copyright protection often extends for the life of the creator plus several decades, whereas neighbouring rights have a more limited duration.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

  • Enforcement:

 The copyright holder typically enforces copyright infringement, while performers, record labels, or broadcasting organizations may enforce neighbouring rights.

  • Purpose: 

Copyright protection aims to incentivize and reward creative endeavours by granting exclusive rights to creators. Neighbouring rights aim to protect the interests of those involved in distributing and performing copyrighted works.

Copyright and neighbouring rights are distinct but complementary legal concepts within the realm of intellectual property, each serving to protect different aspects of creative and cultural works. Understanding these differences is essential for creators and those involved in distributing and performing creative content.

Importance of Neighboring Rights

Neighbouring rights, also known as related rights, are of significant importance in the field of intellectual property and the creative arts for several key reasons:

  • Protection of Performers and Record Labels:
    • Neighbouring rights protect performers (e.g., musicians, actors) and phonogram producers (record labels). This protection ensures that these individuals and entities are fairly compensated for their contributions to the creative process.
  • Recognition of Performers’ Contributions:
    • Neighbouring rights acknowledge the valuable role of performers in bringing creative works to life. With performers’ talent and effort, many creative works, especially music and film, would exist in their final form.
  • Economic Incentive for Investment:
    • Neighbouring rights create economic incentives for investment in creating, distributing, and promoting creative content. This incentive encourages artists and producers to continue producing high-quality works and investing in the industry.
  • Support for Emerging Artists:
    • Neighbouring rights can be particularly important for emerging artists and smaller record labels. They provide these entities with a means to earn income from their work, enabling them to continue their artistic pursuits and foster a diverse cultural landscape.
  • Fair Compensation for Public Performances and Broadcasts:
    • Neighbouring rights ensure that performers and record labels receive fair compensation when their works are publicly performed or broadcast, such as in concerts, on radio, or through streaming platforms. This helps sustain the livelihood of artists and the business operations of record labels.
  • Promotion of Cultural Diversity:
    • Neighbouring rights contribute to the promotion of cultural diversity by supporting a variety of artists and performers. They enable creators from different backgrounds to share their unique voices and cultural expressions globally.
  • Strengthening Creative Industries:
    • A strong system of neighbouring rights helps strengthen the creative industries, including music, film, broadcasting, and live performances. This, in turn, boosts the overall economy by creating jobs, generating revenue, and attracting investments.
  • Global Harmonization and Protection:
    • Neighbouring rights are recognized in various international treaties and agreements, such as the Rome Convention and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). This promotes global harmonization in protecting intellectual property rights and ensures that creators and performers enjoy similar rights worldwide.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights
  • Adaptation to Digital Technologies:
    • As digital technologies continue to reshape how creative content is distributed and consumed, neighbouring rights are becoming increasingly important. They help address issues related to online streaming, digital downloads, and other digital distribution methods, ensuring that performers and record labels receive due compensation in the digital age.

Neighbouring rights play a crucial role in protecting and remunerating of performers and record labels, promoting artistic creation, cultural diversity, and economic growth. They are vital for sustaining the creative industries and ensuring that artists and those involved in content distribution are fairly compensated for their contributions to art and entertainment.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

Copyright Protection

Originality Requirement

A work must be original and fixed in a physical medium of expression in order to be protected by copyright. This requires that the work be original and exist in a form that can be seen or reproduced.

Exclusive Rights of Copyright Holders

The sole rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and develop derivative works belong to the copyright holders. These rights give authors the ability to decide how their works are utilized and paid for.

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

Duration of Copyright

Protection under the law is not perpetual. Depending on the country, the protection is often granted for the author’s lifetime plus 50 to 70 years. After this time, the work becomes freely usable by everyone and belongs to the public domain.

Neighbouring Rights in Music

Performers’ Rights

Performers, such as musicians and vocalists, have neighbouring rights that grant them control over their performances. This includes the right to authorize or prohibit the recording and broadcasting their live performances.

Producers’ Rights

Producers of sound recordings also enjoy neighbouring rights. They have the authority to license the use of their recordings and receive royalties when their works are played or distributed.

Copyright Infringement

Fair Use and Fair Dealing

Copyright law recognizes exceptions, such as fair use and fair dealing, which allow limited use of copyrighted material without permission. These exceptions balance the interests of creators with the public’s right to access knowledge and culture.

Remedies for Copyright Infringement

Copyright holders can take legal action to protect their rights when copyright infringement occurs. Remedies may include injunctions, damages, and the removal or blocking of infringing content.

Neighboring Rights in Broadcasting

Protecting Broadcasters’ Rights

Broadcasters hold neighbouring rights over their broadcasts. These rights safeguard their investments in content transmission and prevent unauthorized rebroadcasting or distribution.

Challenges in the Digital Era

The digital age presents challenges for broadcasters, as online streaming and content-sharing platforms have blurred the lines of traditional broadcasting. Protecting neighbouring rights in this context requires innovative solutions.

International Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Treaties and Agreements

International agreements like the Berne Convention and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty make it easier to defend neighboring rights and copyright internationally. The legal framework for protecting intellectual property is unified by these accords.

Cross-Border Protection

Creators and rights holders can rely on international treaties to enforce their rights in foreign jurisdictions, ensuring their works are safeguarded globally.

The Evolving Landscape

Digital Challenges and Solutions

The digital era has brought opportunities and challenges to copyright and neighbouring rights. Technologies like blockchain and digital fingerprinting offer new ways to protect and track creative works.

New Forms of Creativity

Innovations in technology have given rise to new forms of creativity, from virtual reality experiences to AI-generated art. Addressing the protection of these creations is a dynamic area of intellectual property law.

Balancing Act: Copyright vs. Public Interest

The Role of Exceptions and Limitations

Copyright law includes exceptions and limitations to balance the rights of creators with the public interest. These provisions ensure that access to knowledge and culture is unrestricted.

Promoting Access to Knowledge

Libraries, educational institutions, and researchers benefit from copyright exceptions that allow using copyrighted materials for educational and research purposes. These exceptions foster the dissemination of knowledge.

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

Enforcing Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Legal Actions and Enforcement Mechanisms

Rights holders can enforce their copyright and neighbouring rights through legal actions, such as cease and desist orders and litigation. The choice of enforcement mechanism depends on the severity of the infringement.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

International Cooperation

International cooperation and coordination between law enforcement authorities and rights organizations are necessary for the cross-border enforcement of intellectual property rights.

The Future of Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Emerging Trends

The future of copyright and neighbouring rights will be shaped by emerging trends such as AI-generated content, virtual reality, and blockchain-based copyright management.

Technological Advances

Advances in technology will continue to challenge existing legal frameworks, requiring adaptation to protect creators and rights holders effectively.

Who gets neighbouring rights?

Neighbouring rights are typically granted to two main categories of rights holders in the context of recorded music:


  • Musicians: 

This category includes instrumentalists and vocalists who perform on a sound recording. Performers contribute their musical and artistic skills to create the performance captured in a recording.

  • Singers:

 Vocalists who provide a recorded song’s lead or background vocals are also considered performers.

Phonogram Producers:

  • Phonogram producers are entities responsible for the production and distribution of sound recordings. These are often record labels or production companies that invest in music recording, production, marketing, and distribution.
  • Phonogram producers hold rights to sound recording, distinct from the underlying musical composition. They have exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute,license the recorded music.

Both performers and phonogram producers are entitled to neighbouring rights. Still, the rights and responsibilities may vary from country to country and can be subject to individual contracts and agreements. Neighbouring rights protect the interests of these rights holders in the use and exploitation of sound recordings, especially in contexts such as public performances, broadcasting, streaming, and distribution.

Neighbouring rights provide performers and phonogram producers with a legal framework to receive compensation and control over the use of their recorded music. This compensation often comes in the form of royalties collected from various sources, such as radio stations, streaming platforms, music venues, and licensing deals for film and television. Music-collecting societies and organizations are crucial in collecting and distributing these royalties to the respective rights holders.

What is the CMO of neighbouring rights?

Collective Management Organizations (CMOs), or Collective Rights Management Organizations (CRMOs), play a pivotal role in administrating and enforcing neighbouring rights. These organizations are responsible for collectively representing the interests of performers and phonogram producers in managing and distributing royalties related to sound recordings. They act as intermediaries between the rights holders (performers and phonogram producers) and music users, such as broadcasters, streaming services, and venues.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

Key functions of CMOs in the context of neighbouring rights include:

  • Royalty Collection:
  •  CMOs collect royalties on behalf of performers and phonogram producers from music users who publicly perform, broadcast, or otherwise use sound recordings. These royalties are typically based on factors like the number of airplay, streams, or public performances.
  • Licensing and Negotiation: 
  • CMOs negotiate licensing agreements with music users to ensure that sound recordings are used legally and that rights holders receive fair compensation. These agreements specify the terms, conditions, and fees for using sound recordings.
  • Distribution of Royalties: 
  • After collecting royalties, CMOs distribute the collected funds to the rights holders they represent. The distribution methods may vary and often consider factors such as the prominence of performers, the popularity of sound recordings, and contractual agreements.
  • Protection of Rights:
  •  CMOs actively protect the rights of performers and phonogram producers by monitoring and enforcing the proper use of sound recordings. They may take legal action against unauthorized use and infringement.
  • Advocacy and Education: 
  • CMOs often engage in advocacy efforts to promote the recognition and protection of neighbouring rights. They may also provide education and resources to rights holders to help them understand and navigate the complexities of neighbouring rights.
  • International Coordination: 
  • CMOs may collaborate with similar organizations in other countries to facilitate the cross-border collection and distribution of royalties. International treaties and agreements, such as the Rome Convention and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), play a role in this coordination.

The specific CMO responsible for neighbouring rights may vary by country and region. In some cases, multiple CMOs may operate within a single country, each representing different categories of rights holders. For example, there may be separate CMOs for musicians and record labels.

Overall, CMOs ensure that performers and phonogram producers receive fair compensation for using their sound recordings and that neighbouring rights are effectively managed and enforced.

What are digital performance royalties?

Digital performance royalties refer to the compensation paid to rights holders, typically performers and record labels, for the digital public performance of sound recordings. These royalties are generated when sound recordings are played or streamed over digital platforms, such as streaming services, internet radio, or online music stores, for the benefit of the listening public. Here’s how digital performance royalties work:

  • Digital Performances: 
  • Digital performances encompass the online distribution and playback of sound recordings. This includes streaming music on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, internet radio stations, music videos on YouTube, and other digital music services.
  • Rights Holders:
    • Performers: These artists contributed their musical and vocal performances to the recording. Performers can be individual musicians or bands.
    • Record Labels: Phonogram producers, often represented by record labels, hold the rights to the actual sound recordings and are entitled to a share of digital performance royalties.
  • Royalty Collection:
    • Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) or Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) collect digital performance royalties on behalf of performers and record labels.
    • These organizations negotiate licensing agreements with digital music platforms, ensuring that sound recordings are used legally in exchange for royalty payments.
  • Calculation of Royalties:
    • Digital performance royalties are typically calculated based on various factors, including the number of plays or streams of a particular sound recording.
    • Some platforms use a pro-rata model, where total revenue is divided among rights holders based on the popularity of their recordings. Others use a user-centric model, where royalties are tied directly to an individual listener’s preferences.
  • Distribution of Royalties:
    • After collecting royalties, CMOs or PROs distribute the funds to the rights holders. The distribution process considers factors such as performers’ prominence, sound recordings’ popularity, and contractual agreements.
    • Performers and record labels receive their share of royalties, with the allocation determined by the terms of their contracts and applicable laws.
  • International Considerations:
    • Digital performance royalties often involve international transactions. To facilitate cross-border royalty collection and distribution, there are international treaties and agreements, such as the Rome Convention and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).
    • These agreements ensure rights holders receive compensation for digital performances in various countries where their sound recordings are played.
  • Enforcement and Compliance:
    • CMOs and PROs monitor digital platforms to ensure they are properly licensed and compliant with copyright and neighbouring rights regulations. Legal action may be taken against unauthorized use or infringement.

Digital performance royalties are a vital source of income for performers and record labels in the digital age, as they reflect the increasing shift from physical sales to online streaming and digital music distribution. These royalties help sustain the music industry and support artists and the recording industry’s ecosystem.


What is the difference between copyright and neighbouring rights?

Copyright primarily protects the rights of creators, while neighbouring rights focus on individuals and entities involved in disseminating copyrighted works, such as performers and broadcasters.

How long does copyright protection last?

The duration of copyright protection varies but generally extends for the life of the author 50 to 70 years, after which the work enters the public domain.

Can I use copyrighted material for educational purposes?

Many jurisdictions have exceptions that allow limited use of copyrighted material for educational purposes. However, this usage is subject to specific conditions and restrictions.Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

What rights do performers have under neighbouring rights?

Performers have rights over their live performances, including the authority to authorize or prohibit the recording and broadcasting of their performances.

Are neighbouring rights recognized internationally?

Yes, neighbouring rights are recognized internationally through treaties and agreements that harmonize the legal framework for their protection across borders.

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