Authors are often compelled to enter into contracts for their works in order to fully benefit from the exploitation potential of their creations.

In particular, they may conclude a contract with a professional (producer, publisher, distributor, etc.) who will be responsible for marketing the work.

These contracts must meet certain conditions in order to be valid. These conditions are provided by law to protect the author in his negotiations with professional intermediaries (nonetheless, these conditions apply to all contracts that authors enter into for their works, regardless of who the other party is).

Written requirement

Contracts must be in writing, in order for the author to be fully aware of the rights that are given to the person with whom they enter into a contract, and for to author to keep a record thereof.

Clear contract

The contract must be clearly written. If the contract contains clauses whereby the scope is unclear, the interpretation most favourable to the author will be adopted in the event of a lawsuit.

Mandatory content of the contract

Ways of exploitation

The contract must specify the ways of exploitation for which rights are given, as well as their exact scope:

  • exploitation of music or audio-visual creation
    • for cinema
    • for television
    • for the internet
  • exploitation of a written or graphic creation for a print magazine and/or a digital magazine
  • exploitation of photographs
    • for a book,
    • for distribution on the internet,
    • or to print on t-shirts.

Moreover, contracts may not pertain to a form of exploitation that does not yet exist. As such, contracts that were concluded when the internet did not yet exist, cannot be interpreted in such a way as to include the use of the author's works over the Internet.

What are the author’s remunerations

In addition, the remuneration for each of these ways of exploitation must be specified in the contract. The remuneration may be flat-rate or proportional to earnings.

Which duration?

The contract must also specify the period, during which the person who enters into a contract with the author, is allowed to exercise the rights to the work.

Contract pertaining to works that do not yet exist

If the contract pertains to works that do not yet exist, it must be for a fixed period of time and specify the type of the works to which it pertains.

For example:

  • pieces of music,
  • audio-visual works,
  • graphic works,
  • architectural works,
  • computer programs.

A composer may, for example, agree to transfer the rights to his next future compositions to a producer.

Moral rights: invalid contracts

Authors cannot waive the general future exercise of their moral rights.

Requirements for contracts concluded between authors and their employers

Specific rules apply to works created within the framework of an employment contract or statutory appointment. These rules are less strict and allow the transfer or licensing of rights from the employee to their employer.

Requirements for contracts concluded between authors and their clients

Specific rules apply to works created under a contract for the commissioning of the work, outside the cultural sector. These rules are less strict and allow the author to transfer or license his rights to his client, who commissioned the work.

Last update
23 March 2022