Working paper Open Access

Reversion rights in the European Union Member States

Furgal, Ula

The working paper presents the results of the mapping of provisions allowing authors and performers to reclaim their rights (reversion rights) which are currently or were historically a part of the national laws of the European Union Member States. The mapping is a result of a collaborative project between CREATe (University of Glasgow) and IPRIA (University of Melbourne), with the reCreating Europe consortium. The impulse came from the introduction of the right of revocation in art. 22 of the 2019 Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, a reversion right following a use-it-or-lose-it logic.

The paper identifies over 150 provisions allowing authors and performers to reclaim their rights. General provisions, applicable to all types of works and agreements are not a rule. Reversion rights often tackle narrow sector-specific issues, and general provisions tend to factor in specificities of different types of works, such as differences in their commercial lifespan. The provisions do not always lead to the termination of agreements. Since most of the rights are not brought to effect automatically, but require creator’s action to make any changes to the contractual relationship, there is a space for renegotiation of existing contracts but also potentially for blacklisting. The procedure and formalities which authors and performers need to observe are rarely addressed, leaving creators without a guidance on how to exercise their rights. Termination is only one of the options offered by the existing reversion provisions. Others include the change of exclusive into non-exclusive assignments and an authorisation to perform acts otherwise reserved to other parties. Digital uses are not reflected in the existing provisions which sometimes date back nearly a century. There is no guidance what may constitute a lack of exploitation in the digital context.

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