Under Belgian copyright law, the copyright on works created by employees or civil servants in the course of their normal duties does not automatically belong to the employer. An express written transfer of rights is required for the employer to become the holder of the economic copyrights, and thus of the right to exploit the work. If a question arises regarding the ownership of copyright on creations made in the context of an employment relationship, it is, in the first instance, therefore necessary to check what exactly was agreed in the employment contract or the statute (or in other agreements or documents, e.g. the work regulations).

The same rule applies to the related rights of performers.

The only exceptions to this rule are computer programs and databases. If these particular works are created under an employment contract, the employer shall be deemed to be the copyright holder.

A partly comparable situation exists for works protected by copyright, which are made in execution of an order. It is recommended that companies that, for example, outsource the creation of their logo, website or newsletter to an independent agency conclude a watertight contract that clearly states who will hold the copyright on the ordered creation. If no agreement has been concluded, the basic rule applies which stipulates that the copyrights belong to the creator. The content of the agreement will also differ depending on whether the creation falls within or outside the cultural or advertising sector.

Last update
22 September 2022