Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

The Dutch Copyright Act (Auteurswet) automatically protects the copyright of works of literature, science, and art from the moment the work is created, on condition that the work in question is an original work. If you are an author or maker, you determine what happens with your work. For instance, you decide how others use, copy, or display your work. Copyright is laid down in the Dutch Copyright Act.

Copyright exists from the moment you created your work. You do not need to register or file your work. Copyright is automatic, free-of-charge, and copyright protection applies internationally. The Dutch Copyright Act only protects your work if it meets the following 3 conditions:

  • Your work is original and personal, it cannot be similar to works of others.
  • Your work is perceptible by senses. This implies that your work can be seen, read, or heard.
  • Your work does not concern a technical product or production process. In this case you must apply for a patent.

Examples of copyright protected works are:

  • books, music, and films
  • paintings and drawings
  • software, video games, and apps
  • architectural drawings
  • photos and videos
  • newspaper articles

Examples of work that are not protected include catalogues, manuals, timetables, theatre programs, and telephone directories.

How do you prove your copyright?

Copyright is not officially registered anywhere. Because of this, it may be wise to state your name and the date when creating a work. In case of a court case you can then prove the work was already yours on the stated date. You can this for instance by:

  • putting a copyright icon © with your name and date on your work.
  • sending yourself a copy or a picture of the work by registered mail. Do check if a date is stated on the package and leave the package er envelope closed.
  • having a civil-law notary record your copyright for a specific work with a date stamp, notarial deed, or report.
  • having a digital date stamp for your work recorded in the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property’s (BOIP) iDEPOT.

Please note: these measures do not give your any IP rights, they are extra proof that you were in possession of the work at a given time.

As an author or maker, you can transfer copyright in whole or in part (in Dutch):

  • You can issue the rights under licence to a museum or publisher for example. In this case, copyright remains with the author or maker, but permission is given to the museum or publisher to display, disseminate, or copy the work. This must be agreed in writing.
  • In the case of copyright transfer, the author 'sells' his work to another party. The other party then holds copyright. This must also be agreed in writing.

If an author or maker creates a work for an employer, the copyright automatically transfers to the employer unless a prior agreement determines otherwise.

Do you want to transfer your copyright? Or buy it from someone? If so, the owner of the work may decide the price.

Copyright after death

If you die, copyright is automatically transferred to your heirs. Copyright ceases to apply 70 years after the death of the work’s creator. This period starts on 1 January of the year after the creator died.

Copyright violation

Is your work used without your permission, for example distributed, printed, or published on the internet? Then this is a copyright violation (in Dutch). You can have further distribution prohibited by the court. You can also demand compensation for the damages.

Use of copyrighted work without permission

In some cases, copyrighted work can be used without permission, for instance:

  • With automated text- and datamining (TCM) of databanks to find patterns and trends.
  • When used in classrooms or in closed online learning environments.
  • When digitising physical collections by cultural heritage agencies, such as libraries, museums, and public archives.

Copyright contract law

In addition to copyright law, there is also copyright contract law (in Dutch), which aims to strengthen the position of the author and performer in exploitation agreements with publishers, record companies, and film producers. The contract gives the operating company permission to exploit their work in return for compensation. Exploitation contracts state that the maker has the:

  • right to a fair remuneration
  • right to a higher remuneration if the work becomes very successful
  • right to partially or fully end the contract with the exploitation organisation if the work is not properly exploited
  • right to remove unfair demands in the exploitation contract


If you exploit copyrights, you must be transparent towards the creator of the work. The creator has the right to information on, among others, how the work is distributed or performed, remuneration, and revenues.

Neighbouring rights

Neighbouring rights (naburige rechten) are applicable to performing artists, producers of phonograms, film producers, and broadcasting organisations. The performing artist has to give permission before another party records, broadcasts, or sells a performance. These rights can also be transferred. Neighbouring rights originate automatically and provide a 50-year term of protection. A 70-year term of protection applies to an executive musician or a producer.

Online content platforms

Platforms which distribute user-generated content, such as pictures, music, and videos online must:

  • actively obtain permission from the rightsholders on copyrighted content
  • at least partially share income generated by advertisements with rightsholders
  • filter content which violates copyrights for which no permission is acquired and remove the violating content if needed
  • allow their users to appeal wrongful removal of content

Database law

Databases and collections of works which took a great deal of time to compile can be protected under database law and copyright law. If you want to use a database you must ask permission from the person who created it.

Lending rights

For the lending of books, CDs, video films, or art, the copyright owners have a right to compensation. The Public Lending Rights Office (Stichting Leenrecht) collects payments from libraries, toy libraries, CD lenders, and art leasing galleries. The Rights Office then distributes these payments to organisations representing copyright owners, such as Lira (a foundation representing writers, translators, and journalists) and Pictoright (which represents image makers and press photographers). These organisations handle the further distribution among rightsholders. You can find more information with the Centre for Service to Authors’ and related Rights (Centrum voor Dienstverlening Auteurs- en aanverwante Rechten, Cedar).

Portrait right

If you film or photograph people, you will be the owner of the copyright but not of the portrait right. The portrait right allows the portrayed person to prohibit the publication or copying of the photo or film. In many cases you must ask permission to publish a portrait. Portrait right falls under copyright laws.

Collective management organisation

Most authors of works (including composers, musicians, and film makers) exercise their copyrights through a collective management organisation (CMO), such as the:

  • Bureau of Musical Copyright (Buma/Stemra)
  • Dutch Foundation for the Exploitation of Neighbouring Rights (Sena)
  • Reprographic Reproduction Rights Foundation (Stichting Reprorecht)
  • Dutch Private Copying Society (Stichting de Thuiskopie)

These collective management organisations are affiliated to the Association of Organisations for the Collective Management of Intellectual Property Rights (Vereniging van Organisaties die Intellectueel eigendom Collectief Exploiteren, VOI©E). CMOs are subject to an EU directive on copyright and related rights.

CMOs should be transparent towards their authors. The author should be informed on the way their work is being distributed, the profits and their royalties.

Independent Management Entity

An Independent Management Entity (IME) functions much in the same way as a CMO as it manages copyright or rights related to copyright on behalf of rightsholders. However, it is neither owned or controlled, directly, indirectly, wholly, or in part, by rightsholders, and it is organised on a for-profit basis.


The Dutch Copyright Supervisory Board (College van Toezicht Auteursrecht, CvTA, in Dutch) supervises several of these CMOs and IMEs (in Dutch).


If you wish to file a complaint against any of these CMOs or IMEs as a user of work protected under copyright law, you must first contact the relevant organisation. They all have their own dispute settlement system. If your complaint has either not been settled or has not been properly settled, you can contact VOI©E. If the collective management organisation has joined the Dutch Foundation for Consumer Complaints Boards, you may want to bring in their Copyright Disputes Committee for businesses (in Dutch).

If you want to mediate in music copyrights, you will need a licence from the Ministry of Justice and Safety. This licence allows you to mediate performances of copyrighted works on radio or TV and in public. You do not need a licence if you make the music available on the internet, through downloads or streaming.