Table of Contents

    Unlike a patent, which concerns inventions, you do not have to take any steps or complete any formalities to protect a work. Copyright protection applies automatically as soon as an original work has a form and is put into concrete form (a mere idea is not protected).

    However, it may be useful to keep proof of the date of creation of the work and the fact that you are its author or co-author. You should also be aware that this proof is free. In fact you can perfectly demonstrate that you are at the origin of the creation of the work through various means of proof, in particular any document, recording or publication that would be useful, without them being endorsed or certified beforehand by any organisation.

    Collecting societies and fair remuneration

    These are private companies responsible for the collection and distribution of copyright and related rights from the use of works and services. They have ministerial authorisation to carry out their activities within Belgium. You will find an overview of the recognised collecting societies in Belgium on presentation of collecting societies (PDF, Dutch version (PDF, 204.02 KB)French version (PDF, 239.65 KB)).

    Collecting societies are supervised by the FPS Economy's Service for the Supervision of Collecting Societies for Copyright and Related Rights.

    When you join a collecting society, rights are transferred, so that the collecting society acts on behalf of the beneficiary. For more information, you can read the articles of association, general regulations and conditions of membership of the collecting society for an overview of the services it offers.

    A management company may also use auditors (authorised agents), employed by the society, to carry out on-site audits (at the event or operation) of the use of the directory represented by the management company.

    The Reprobel collecting society has been appointed to collect and distribute the remuneration for reprography and the legal remuneration for publishers. It has also developed a tariff for printing copyrighted works.

    If you (company, copyshop, liberal profession, etc.) photocopy and/or print protected works, you must pay the corresponding remuneration to Reprobel. This collective society gives debtors the choice of paying the reprography remuneration, the publishers' statutory remuneration and the printing remuneration. There are three ways to make a payment.

    1. You can use a volume declaration (number of copies of protected works), in which you indicate how many photocopies and/or prints of protected works you have made. You then pay a specific fee per page.
    2. You can use a standardised declaration and thus pay an annual remuneration per full-time equivalent.
    3. You can enter into a contract for one or more reference years.

    You must notify Reprobel if you have not copied any copyrighted work. The simple fact of having a device (photocopier, fax, scanner, etc.) does not authorise Reprobel to send you an invoice.

    You can do this :

    Always mention your Reprobel reference number.

    Contact

    Reprobel
    Avenue du Port 86c-201a
    1000 Brussels

    For a volume declaration, if you do not agree with Reprobel's estimate and do not wish to proceed with the payment, you must notify Reprobel and give the reasons why you are disputing the percentage of prints and/or photocopies invoiced.

    You can do this :

    Always mention your Reprobel reference number.

    If no arrangement is possible, Reprobel may appoint one or more experts, either in consultation with you or on its own initiative. Please be aware that there will be costs involved.

    The expert will then evaluate the number of copies of protected works made during the period under consideration.

    Contact

    Reprobel
    Avenue du Port 86c-201a
    1000 Brussels

    Fair remuneration is remuneration owed by the user to the collecting societies that represent the performers (singer, guitarist, etc.) and the producers (music producers).

    You must pay this remuneration in the event of the public broadcasting of recorded music (through a CD, MP3, radio, etc.).

    SIMIM (representing producers) and PlayRight (representing performers) are the management companies responsible for collecting fair remuneration. These societies have entrusted Outsourcing Partners SA and Honebel SC (for the hotel and catering sector) with collection.

    If you do not pay, they can request the intervention of the collection agency Intrum nv.

    The firm may charge you additional amounts.

    You must declare the temporary activity to the relevant collecting societies at least five calendar days before the activity begins. The collecting society may demand a flat-rate surcharge if you do not meet this deadline. In the event of a late declaration, this surcharge increases to 15 % of the fair remuneration, with a minimum of €35. If no declaration has been made, the increase is also 15 % but with a minimum of €75. These amounts are indexed.

    If no declaration has been made and an inspector from the competent management companies has to go in person to make findings, a fee of €100 may be charged, provided that this is a sworn official, i.e. a person designated by ministerial order.

    Yes, because even if an annual fair remuneration contract has been concluded for the venue where the event takes place, the annual contract may not necessarily cover all events held in the venue.

    For example, if you have an annual " with beverages " contract and are hosting a " with dance " event, your event is not covered by the annual contract. In this case, you must submit a specific declaration for the event.

    It is therefore important to check the category of the event you wish to organise, so you can determine whether it is covered by the annual contract.

    SIMIM (representing producers) and PlayRight (representing performers) are the management companies responsible for collecting fair remuneration. They have entrusted Outsourcing Partners SA and Honebel SC (for the hotel and catering sector) with collection.

    If you do not pay, they can request the intervention of the collection agency Intrum nv.

    Useful addresses

    Outsourcing Partners SA
    Martelaarslaan 53-55
    9000 Ghent

    Tel. +32 2 710 51 00 (every working day from 9am to 3.30pm)

    Fax : +32 2 710 51 10

    Honebel SC
    Rue Saint Géry 10
    1000 Brussels

    Tel.  +32 2 514 27 33 (every working day from 9am to 12pm and from 1pm to 4pm)

    From 1st January 2020, you will be able to submit declarations of music use for an operation or for an event via a single platform for music use, namely Unisono. This platform will allow the payment of all remunerations related to the use of music with the collecting societies SABAM, SIMIM and PlayRight in one go.

    If recorded music is played in public (e.g. in a shop, café, etc.), you must pay fair remuneration in accordance with Article XI.213 of the Code of Economic Law.

    The payment of fair remuneration can go back up to five years provided that the recorded music was actually broadcast during that period (Article 74 of the Royal Decree of 17 December 2017 on fair remuneration for performers and producers for the public performance of phonograms or the broadcasting of phonograms). The collecting society must prove that you actually played music during the period for which it is claiming payment.

    If you receive such a payment request and dispute it, you can send the collecting society a registered letter, in which you request evidence that a public broadcast of recorded music took place in previous years.

    SIMIM (representing producers) and PlayRight (representing performers) are the management companies responsible for collecting fair remuneration. They have entrusted Outsourcing Partners SA and Honebel SC (for the hotel and catering sector) with collection.

    If you do not pay, they can request the intervention of the collection agency Intrum nv.

    Useful addresses

    Outsourcing Partners SA
    Martelaarslaan 53-55
    9000 Ghent

    Tel : +32 2 710 51 00 (every working day from 9am to 3.30pm)

    Fax : +32 2 710 51 10

    Honebel SC
    Rue Saint Géry 10
    1000 Brussels

    Tel : +32 2 514 27 33 (every working day from 9am to 12pm and from 1pm to 4pm)

    From 1st January 2020, you will be able to submit declarations of music use for an operation or for an event via a single platform for music use, namely Unisono. This platform will allow the payment of all remunerations related to the use of music with the collecting societies SABAM, SIMIM and PlayRight in one go.

    Not normally because, in principle, a collecting society cannot collect rights for the use of a work or service whose management has not been entrusted to it by its owner.

    However, there are important exceptions to this principle (legal licences) for the collection of :

    • remuneration for private copying ;
    • remuneration for reprography ;
    • legal remuneration for publishers ;
    • remuneration for the reproduction and communication of works in the context of teaching and scientific research ;
    • remuneration for public lending ;
    • fair remuneration.

    Where there is a legal licence, the rights-holder cannot refuse to give consent to the exploitation of their works or services but is entitled to receive remuneration for their use. The amount of this remuneration is set by Royal Decrees.

    Similarly, cable retransmission and communication to the public by direct injection fall outside the principle of the exclusive right of the rights-holders. In these cases, as no remuneration is fixed by Royal Decree, the rights-holders are obliged to use a collecting society to fix the tariffs for the exploitation of works and performances by cable retransmission and direct injection.

    In the cases mentioned above, it does not matter whether or not the work or performance is part of the collecting society's repertoire, as the rights are due as soon as the established criteria for use are met.

    If the performers and phonogram producers have definitely waived the fair remuneration due to them, the collecting society cannot collect it.

    Yes.

    If you want to know whether a particular work belongs to the repertoire of a collecting society, you can send it a reasoned request. The society must provide you with this information without undue delay and by electronic means (Section XI.267 of the Code of Economic Law).

    You can receive several invoices for the use of a work.

    The reason is as follows : the creation of a work very often involves joint creators. For example, a song is written by a composer and a lyricist, without these two functions necessarily being performed by the same person. Similarly, the performer is not necessarily the composer, and a number of musicians, guitarist, pianist, drummer, etc. are involved in the recording of the music tape. Finally, the financial contribution of the producer is necessary for the work to see the light of day.

    These different parties each have an exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the reproduction or communication of the work. If you want to reproduce or distribute a work, you must therefore obtain many different authorisations.

    These rights-holders generally come together in collecting societies, to which they entrust the management of the rights attached to their works or services.

    You may therefore receive invoices from either the collecting societies or directly from the rights-holders if they have chosen to manage their own rights.

    Furthermore, the use of a work may reflect distinct modes of exploitation of that work. Thus, a musical work may first be reproduced as a sound recording and then communicated to the public. This necessarily leads to the application of two different pricing rules, and consequently the receipt of two invoices.

    Several initiatives aim to simplify this area. So if you want to broadcast music, you can submit your declaration for both copyright (SABAM) and related rights (fair remuneration) on the single declaration website.

    The broadcasting of music in the workplace is also regulated by the Unisono portal in terms of both copyright and related rights. From 1st January 2020, you will also be able to pay to use music in an establishment (shop, café, etc.) or at an event via this portal. This way, you will only receive one invoice, which will cover both the copyright (SABAM) and the fair remuneration (SIMIM and PlayRight).

    A management company may use auditors working on its behalf to make on-site (during the event or at the facility) observations regarding the use of the repertoire it represents. These inspectors may be approved by a ministerial decree, which means that their findings are valid until proven otherwise. The agents are approved on the basis of Article XI.263, §  3 of the Code of Economic Law and sworn in in accordance with Article 572 of the Judicial Code.

    Any user who disputes the findings of an authorised agent must provide  evidence to support these findings. They may provide this evidence by any legal means (writing, testimony, presumption, preliminary written evidence, etc.) but must first present it to the collecting society or societies concerned.

    Authorised agents do not have the powers of the criminal police. They therefore simply have the right to seek information within the same limits as an ordinary citizen. They do not have the power to enter private premises or, unless provided by law, obtain copies of certain documents. They may only record facts that may constitute infringements of the rights recognised by Title 5 of Book XI of the Code of Economic Law, provided that these facts occur in a place accessible to the public.

    Findings made by a non-approved agent may also be taken into account but will not have any particular force of evidence.

    The Control Service of the Copyright Management Companies Service is competent to verify the legality of the findings of authorised agents. You can contact the Contact Point  if you have any problems.

    The collecting societies must take the necessary measures to distribute and pay the royalties they collect within nine months of the end of the financial year in which the royalties were collected (Article XI.252, § 1st, paragraph 2 of the Code of Economic Law). If your collecting society collects your dues on the basis of a representation agreement, this period will be six months from the day your collecting society collected the dues (Article XI.260, § 3, paragraph 2 of the Code of Economic Law).

    If it cannot meet this deadline, the management company must state the objective reasons for this in its management report. If you do not receive your fees within this period, you can ask the management company for an explanation.

    You can take the matter to court if you do not receive an explanation or are not satisfied with this explanation. You can also report the problem to the Contact Point.

    To find out how much you are owed by the collecting society, please refer to this society's allocation rules. You can ask your collecting society for these rules if you do not have them. The company is obliged to provide you with the rules within three weeks (Article XI.249, §  3 of the Code of Economic Law).

    If you feel that these rules have not been properly applied, you should first contact your collecting society and make a complaint. As a rule, it must respond within one month (Article XI.273/1, § 3 of the Code of Economic Law). If the collecting society refuses to change its position and you maintain your position, then you should either go to court or report the problem to the Contact Point.

    Copyright on websites

    The relationship between the commissioning party and the website creator is covered in the " Copyright Guidelines for website owners (PDF, Dutch version (PDF, 211.39 KB)French version (PDF, 232.27 KB)) " published by the FPS Economy.

    If you want to create a website containing protected works (text, image, photo, music sequence, video or music video), it is important to take the following steps and seek advice from a competent person in the field.

    • Make an inventory of the elements that will be reproduced or used on the website and that may be protected by copyright.
    • Determine the copyright and related rights-holders from whom you need to obtain permission.
    • Define how these protected works will be used to deduce the exclusive rights of the author and/or producer concerned, and thus determine all the necessary authorisations to be obtained with regard to copyright and related rights.
    • Draft a contract and negotiate the rights with the author(s) and/or producer(s) or their respective collecting societies.

    As part of this last step, you will find useful information for this on the " Copyright " and " Related rights " pages.

    Background music on the website of my company, association or public service

    You must make the difference between what is due to the composer-songwriters, on the one hand, and what is due to the producers, on the other hand. Via the platform Unisono, you can as well cover remunerations due to the ones and the others. Unisono is a collaboration between SABAM and SIMIM. Go to the single declaration  website, click on " English " and then on " Rate simulator ", " Background music on a website " and " Next ".

    Fill in the requested data and the price will appear. Click on " Declaration " and follow the instructions.

    You can also print and complete a declaration form. There are separate forms for certain sectors.

    Please note : you will only be allowed to use music under the following four cumulative conditions.

    1. The total duration of use may not exceed 15 minutes.
    2. The music must be used in a non-downloadable format.
    3. It must not be a web radio.
    4. The music must not be used for a commercial, promotion or animation (flash, video, etc.).

    If your website does not meet these conditions, you must request permission from each rights-holder of the music used.

    Making music or video clips available " on demand " on my website (streaming)

    You have to distinguish between what is owed to songwriters and what is owed to producers, singers and performers.

    To pay songwriters, go to the  SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " Music ", " On a website " and " Streaming music rate " to get the rate.

    You can submit your request via SABAM's platform, eLicensing. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    However, this remuneration only covers the rights of songwriters. You must therefore also take additional steps for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, it is not necessary to contact the performers' collecting society, "PlayRight ", as performers generally assign their rights for this type of use to the producers. As a result, you must obtain the authorisation of the music producers' collecting society. To do this, you will need to do one or more of the following.

    1. Musical works

    If you want to make musical works available " on demand ", you must contact the producers directly to obtain the required authorisations. If you want to make these musical works available in a linear or semi-linear (webradio) way, you can go through SIMIM, the producers' collecting society. Go to the SIMIM website and click on the " internet " page.

    You will find the rates and the declaration form under " Webcasting/streaming ".

    1. Video clips

    If you want to make video clips available " on demand ", you must contact the video clip producers directly to obtain the required authorisations. If you want to make these video clips available in a linear or semi-linear way, you can go through Imagia, the video clip producers' collecting society. Go to the Imagia page of the SIMIM website, where you will find the applicable rates.

    You have to distinguish between what is owed to songwriters and what is owed to producers, singers and performers.

    To pay songwriters, go to the  SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " Music ", " On a website " and " Audiovisual production of a commercial nature rate " to get the rate.

    You can then submit your request via SABAM's platform, eLicensing. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    However, this remuneration only covers the rights of songwriters. You must therefore also take additional steps for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, it is not necessary to contact the performers' collecting society, " PlayRight ", as performers generally assign their dues for this type of use to the producers. So you must obtain authorisation from the music producers' collecting society.

    To do this, you can visit the " internet " page of the SIMIM website. Click on " internet ", " Audiovisual works - broadcast exclusively on the internet ", then on " The tariff overview can be found here ". Then ask for a contract by contacting the address mentioned on this page, under " Information ": vince.versteynen@simim.be, tel : +32 2 775 82 10.

    You have to distinguish between what is owed to songwriters and what is owed to producers, singers and performers.

    To pay songwriters, go to the SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " Music ", " On a website " and " Rate for the online distribution of musical works " to get the rate.

    You can then submit your request via eLicensing. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    You must also pay for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, neither the performers' collecting society, " PlayRight" , nor the producers' society, "SIMIM ", ensures the collective management of rights for this type of use.

    This means :

    • that the site owner should not expect any claims from these two companies ;
    • that the only way to be safe from claims is to negotiate individually and directly with the holders of related rights.

    To pay songwriters, go to the  SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " Music ", " On a website " and " Rate for the online distribution of musical works " to get the rate.

    You can then submit your request via eLicensing. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    You must also pay for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, neither the performers' collecting society, " PlayRight ", nor the producers' society, "SIMIM ", ensures the collective management of rights for this type of use.

    This means :

    • that the site owner should not expect any claims from these two companies ;
    • that the only way to be safe from claims is to negotiate individually and directly with the holders of related rights.

    To pay songwriters, go to the  SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " Music ", " On a website " and " Rate for the online distribution of musical works " to get the rate.

    You can then submit your request via eLicensing. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    You must also pay for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, it is not necessary to contact the performers' collecting society, "PlayRight ", as performers generally assign their dues for this type of use to the producers. So you must obtain authorisation from the music producers' collecting society.

    To pay the music producers, visit the  SIMIM website . Click on " internet ". Under " Podcasting ", " a) for broadcasters " or " b) for non-broadcasters ", select " Tariffs " and " Declaration Form ".

    To pay songwriters, go to the  SABAM website and click on " For All ". Then click on " (Web)radio / TV " and " Tariffs for broadcasters and the online radio programme offer " to obtain the tariff.

    Finally, click on " Webradio application form " and follow the instructions.

    You must also pay for the rights of producers, performers and musicians. However, it is not necessary to contact the performers' collecting society, "PlayRight ", as performers generally assign their rights for this type of use to the producers. So you must obtain authorisation from the music producers' collecting society.

    You must apply to SIMIM to remunerate music producers for the use of music on non-interactive or semi-interactive web radios. The procedure can be found on the SIMIM website. Click on " internet ", then, under " Webcasting/streaming ", on " Tariffs " and " Registration form ".

    If you want to make musical works available " on demand ", contact the producers directly to obtain the required authorisations.

    As a rule, you should contact the publisher. If it is affiliated with SABAM, the procedure is as follows.

    Go to the SABAM website and click on " For All ". Click on " Literature ", then on " Rates for literary reproduction ". You will then access a document that lists the rates for literary works, including those for the Internet (p. 15).

    Click on " Click here for eLicensing " and follow the instructions. You must login or register if this is your first visit to the site.

    Articles from the French- or German-speaking Belgian daily press

    To obtain the required authorisation, go to Copiepresse and, at the bottom of the page, under " Online calculation module ", click " Access the module ". Answer the questions according to your situation and desired use. If you confirm the process, you will then receive a summary email and a pre-order number before being contacted again to set up a contract.

    Publishers who are members of Copiepresse have all concluded agreements with SAJ-JAM to manage rights for journalists who have not transferred their rights directly. Copiepresse licences therefore cover the rights of both publishers and journalists.

    Articles from the French or Luxembourg daily press

    Go to Copiepresse and, in the left-hand column, click on " Directories & Rates ", then on " Other directories managed by Copiepresse (mandates) ".

    You can obtain the French rates by clicking on " French press directories and rates ".

    You can obtain the Luxembourg rates by clicking on " Luxembourg press directories and rates ".

    Continue by clicking on " Reporting Forms " under " Other directories managed by Copiepresse (mandates) ". 

    Articles from the Flemish daily press

    License2Publish licences cover the rights of both publishers and journalists. In the rare cases where the journalist's rights have not been transferred to the publisher, License2Publish will contact the journalist in question.

    To obtain the required authorisation, visit the License2publish website. Under " Licences ", click on " Rates " and consult the different tariffs related to internet broadcasting.

    To access the declaration form, go back to ' Licences ' and click on ' Request a licence '.

    Articles from the Belgian periodical press

    Repropress guarantees that the licenses it grants cover the rights of both periodical publishers and journalists. Repropress acquires its rights directly from the press publisher or from the journalists' collecting society " SAJ-JAM ".

    To obtain the required permission, go to the Repropress website, click on " Contact " and send your request to the email address provided.

    Belgian collecting society : SOFAM

    Visit the SOFAM website. Click on " Information " and then on " Rates for Belgium ". Download the PDF file " SOFAM rates ". Read the section of the document on the Internet (p. 35) for the applicable rate. To request a licence, go back to the French home page and click on info@sofam.be at the bottom of the page. This licence will be based on the rate indicated in the PDF.

    Foreign collecting societies

    If the work you are interested in is not in SOFAM's repertoire, it may be in the repertoire of one of the foreign collecting societies listed on the French home page under " Rates "/ "Rates abroad ". You will then be redirected to the websites of SOFAM's sister companies. Follow the procedure of the website(s) that you need.

    You can also apply for worldwide licences for the use of visual artworks by 30,000 artists on the Internet. This is possible via the website OnLineArt, of which SOFAM and  SABAM are members. The system generates licences for the reproduction of works on a website or on the intranet, for downloading or " pay-per-view ".

    SABAM

    If the work is part of SABAM's repertoire, go to  SABAM's website and click on " For all " and then on " Visual arts ".

    You can then :

    • obtain the rates by clicking on " Rates " and then on " Visual arts rates ". You reach a document containing the " Internet & Intranet " rates (page 30) ;
    • send a licence application by clicking on " Declaration " and following the instructions.

    Works free of rights 

    To avoid fees, you can also put on your site exclusively royalty-free music, images or films, also called " creative commons ".

    You must of course ensure that the works used are copyright-free and check the conditions of use. It is therefore possible that free use is only allowed for non-commercial purposes.

    You should also be aware that many photos presented as " free of rights " reproduce protected objects. For example , if you place a royalty-free photo of the Atomium on your website, you must have the authorisation of SABAM or the Atomium ASBL, which represents the rights-holders of the architect André Waterkeyn.

    Lastly, there are similar databases that are not free of charge. You must agree to the contractual terms of these sites. You should also make sure that these sites have the rights you need.

    For illustrations of this type, we refer you to agencies such as  Getty Images.

    For music, we refer you to the pro-music website, which lists legal music providers.

    If the hyperlink is to publicly available content, there is no new communication to the public and you do not have to pay copyright.

    There is a new public disclosure if the hyperlink is to content that is not available to everyone (e.g., subscriber-only content). You must therefore again obtain authorisation from the rights-holder(s). If you have been unable to obtain this, you cannot include your hyperlink.

    Warning : if your website contains hyperlinks to press articles and you have changed the titles, this may be considered an act of reproduction. In this event, you must obtain authorisation from the rights-holder(s).

    No.

    A website is accessible to everyone and falls outside the scope of the exception for educational or scientific research purposes. This educational exception is limited to " communication to the public [...] secured by appropriate measures and (which) does not prejudice the normal exploitation of the service " (Article XI.217/1, 4° of the Code of Economic Law).

    In the past, website owners have received letters from a company (which is not a collecting society) asking them to pay royalties for images used on their website, even if the images have been there for years or the site has a very limited audience.

    Visual Rights Group (formerly Permission Machine) and Getty Images are examples of such companies.

    First, it should be noted that when an image is used without the permission of the rights-holder, the latter has the right to object. If a name is mentioned on the image, it is presumed to be that of the author (Article XI.170 of the Code of Economic Law), which indicates that this image is indeed protected by copyright. Please note that this does not mean that there is no copyright when no name is mentioned !

    In the cases described above, a rights-holder has mandated a specific company to act on its behalf. After receiving such a letter, we advise you to request information about this mandate, and more specifically information to prove that the company in question does indeed have a mandate for this copyright.

    With regard to the amount claimed, we can say only that in addition to copyright, the amount may include compensation for the unlawful use of the image. We cannot comment on the extent of this amount, as this is a matter exclusively for the courts.

    Lastly, you should also take into account whether there is a safeguard clause in the general conditions of the contract with the seller of the photo(s). This clause (in the contract between the buyer of the image and the seller) implies that the buyer cannot be held liable for copyright infringement if they have acquired the image legally. This clause can therefore also be invoked.

    It is up to you to determine, on the basis of the circumstances of your case, whether the company's claims are justified. If you consider it useful, you can also report the problem via the Contact Point.

    Download the Copyright FAQs (PDF, Dutch versionFrench version)

    Last update
    19 May 2022