Copyright issues

On this page, we will discuss concepts related to copyrights.

  • creator, work and copy
  • rights
  • exceptions
  • consequences

Creator, work and copy

The creator is the person who has created a work. The work can be the product of any creative work, such as a text of fiction or fact, a painting, a photograph, a composition, a computer program or a web site.

Copyrights are the legal rights of the creator to dispose of his or her work.The copyright sets in automatically when the work is created, so the creator does not need to e.g. register or publish it, or mark it with a © sign. This means that any work you have created, even if it is only laying in your desk drawer, is protected by copyright. Copyrights cannot protect e.g. an idea, a subject, or a plot; you cannot plagiarise a poem written by someone else, but you can write your own version on the same subject. How similar the poems are decides whether they are two different works of art.

In order for a work to be protected by copyright, it must be established as a piece of work. It can be established if it is the product of independent and original creative work. Different types of work are established in different ways. A piece of writing, for example, is easier to establish as a work than a utility article.

The copyright protects the work, i.e. the abstract expression of creativity. A copy of the work is its physical expression, such as the copy of a book or a DVD film. In addition to the copyright, a copy may be encumbered with the owner’s right; when you buy a book from a bookstore you will acquire the owner’s rights to the copy, but the copyright remains with the author. After buying the copy, you may sell it or lend it to others, but to lend films or computer programs, you always need the permission of the creator.

When you write an assignment or essay, your copyright to the work will arise. The work does not have to be artistic or academic, plain creativity will be enough to give you the copyright to it.


The creator of a work has completely power over it. The copyright gives the creator both economic and moral rights:

  • Economic rights ensure that only the creator has the right to exploit the work. This means that the creator alone may determine
    • how to manufacture copies of the work and
    • how to offer the copies to the public.
  • Moral rights protect the creator’s honour. These rights require the name of the creator to be mentioned every time the work is used, in accordance with usual practices. The work may not be changed in a way that dishonours the creator.

Examples of how copies are made:

  • You always need the creator’s permission when copying digital information from a data network.
  • You always need the creator’s permission when using a photograph of transferring a work into digital format. The Ministry of Education and Culture has made a broader arrangement for photocopying for educational needs, but the contract does not include digitalization, such as scanning.

Examples of offering a work to the public:

  • Information published on the web is public, so if you want to distribute material over the web, you always need the creator’s permission, even for your own web pages.
  • You can make a link to the main page of someone else’s web site, but you cannot put copyrighted material on your own web page without permission from the creator (e.g. transferring the material automatically to a frame on your web page).

The main rule for copyrights (books, music etc) is that it applies for as long as the creator lives and 70 after his or her year of death. Separate contracts always have to be made for transferring all or part of the economic rights to another party (e.g. a company) and for the compensation. The creator can only partially give up the moral rights.


The main exception to copyrights relates to private use. It is allowed to make a few copies of an original legal copy of a work for private use. This means that you cannot e.g. make a copy for yourself of an music file on the web if it is distributed illegally. It is also forbidden to distribute copies of a legal copy made for private use.

Another exception that concerns the academic community is the right to quote protected material. You may quote the material in accordance with good academic practices, as much as is needed for your purposes, and in a relevant context; keep in mind that you have to mention the source whenever quoting.

Under permission from Kopiosto, teachers and students may scan a limited number of pages from printed publications and copy minor quantities of text and images from open websites for theses or a closed learning environment, such as Moodle. Check the details of the permission from the Kopiosto website.

Authors also have the right to make their materials freely available to others. The terms and conditions of using the materials can be specified in a CC licence, for example. If a publication contains the marking CC-BY, for example, you can use it freely as long as you mention the author.

The CC-BY licence requires you to:

  • appropriately mention the source
  • provide a link to the licence
  • mention any changes you have made to the materials.

The terms and conditions of CC-BY also specify that you must not suggest that the licensor recommends you or your use of the materials.

For more information on CC licences and their use, please see the website of Creative Commons.

More copyright learning materials:
– in the Kopiraittila Academy, you will be able e.g. test your knowledge with quizzes.


Any infringements on copyrights will be followed by an obligation to compensate the creator for the damage caused. Penal codes have been enacted for the more blatant offences.

More information about copyrights:
The copyright site by the Ministry of Education and Culture
The copyright act (404/1961)
The copyright decree (574/1995)