You always have to deal with copyright in the arts. If you have made (created) something as a self-employed that somebody else wants to publish or adapt, it can earn you money. If you want to publish or adapt something that another person has made, you might have to pay to use it. If you are employed, this is a concern for your employer.

What is copyright?

So copyright has a high business component. At the same time it is about what makes art what it is, because a work can only be copyright if it has an original character, a personal stamp and a form.

The right of personality (the moral right) protects the integrity of the work: that is the non-material side of copyright. The right of exploitation is the material side of copyright. This is the exclusive right of the maker to publish and to reproduce (to copy, adapt, or cast in a different form, such as making the film of a book). Other parties require permission of the maker.

Registration of work

Copyright on a work occurs already by creating a work, but to be able to proof it, it is useful to register your work. If there is a conflict in which one party accuses the other of plagiarism, the date of registration prevails. You can register a work or idea with the notary or with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property. Another possibility is to send the idea by registered mail (when receiving the envelope leave it closed) or send registered e-mails to yourself.

Transfer of copyrights or licenses

Transferring your copyright is the most far-reaching option: another person or organisation receives or buys the rights that you owned yourself first. You can also arrange the right of another person or organisation to use your work by granting a license (permission) to that other person or organisation. In that case, you will specify in an agreement for which purpose, under which terms and conditions, and for which period your work may be used by another person or organisation. You will remain the copyright holder yourself, merely conferring your rights temporarily. If it is a success, you can renegotiate the terms and conditions after the agreed period has passed. Creative Commons licenses enable creators to release their copyright-protected work for specific forms of reuse, without relinquishing copyright.

The transparency obligation is new. This means that an organisation, when transferring or licensing your copyright, must provide you with information about the exploitation, such as the forms of exploitation, the income and the fee to be paid.


In 1886, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was adopted. This has now been signed by 187 countries (as of 2019). The guiding principle in this regard is that the origin of your copyrights is in the country where you first published your work. If you want to exploit your work abroad, you have to deal with the legislation and regulations that apply there. These are other agreements and remunerations than those which you would be entitled to in the Netherlands. New rules are being worked out in the European Union in order to further reduce the differences between copyrights within the member states. Dutch copyright organisations often have contacts with sister organisations in other countries and can help you on your way and provide information.

Sociocultural levy

The so-called ‘sociocultural levy’ (sociaal culturele heffing, SoCu levy) is a common deduction from your copyright fee (mainly in Europe). The money deducted goes to social and cultural causes, often via a so-called ‘social fund’. In this way, the funds are credited to you as rights holder, your creative achievements and the interests of the professional group. Buma/Stemra, Sena, Lira and Pictoright spend this levy on a social fund or other facilities.

Directly to:

Social security


There are a number of collective management organisations for copyrights. If you are considering joining such an organisation, weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and check the legal aspects. Do you want to transfer the exploitation, do you want to give out licenses or is the organisation only working as an intermediary? If you transfer your rights, you cannot get them back.

Copyright organisations in the theatre and dance world
is a Dutch collective management organization (CMO) for (screen)writers, translators and freelance journalists. Lira collects and distributes remunerations for the exploitation and (re)use of literary and audio-visual works of writers.

NORMA represents the interests of performers such as musicians, actors, dancers. NORMA grants remuneration for the use of their performances in the Netherlands and abroad.

IBVA manages copyrights for amateur theatre.