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The site will give you an overview of Intellectual Property law and related procedures, and how these may differ from country to country.

Copyrights - Copyright protection - Italy


The expression of thoughts and ideas is what produce creativity and progress in life. The unique and general aim of copyright is to protect and give exclusive rights to creators of such expression for a certain period of time.

To this end, the author of a work eligible for copyright protection under Italian law has both the right to the commercial exploitation of his work and the right to be sought and recognized as the author of it (so-called "moral right").

In the following, we briefly outline some key features of Italian copyright law, including an overview of how the transferring and licensing of copyright are conceived and a special focus on copyright protection for industrial design, which is a peculiarity of the Italian legal system.

Frequently Asked Questions

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-What are the works that can be protected?

Pursuant to Article 1 of Italian copyright law ("ICL"), all works having a creative character and belonging to literature, music, figurative arts, architecture, theatre or cinematography, whatever their mode or form of expression, are eligible for copyright protection. Article 2 ICL also provides a catalogue, which Italian courts consider merely illustrative, of protectable works, including computer programs and works of industrial designs having a creative character and artistic value.

In general, all works that are a personal intellectual creation of the author and belong to a form of art expression should be considered as copyright works. Indeed, the basic requirement for copyright protection under Italian law is the creative and the individual nature of the work. In this regard, according to Italian case law, it is sufficient that the results achieved by the author come from his/her autonomous decisions and have a certain degree of originality.

Furthermore, the creation has to be expressed in perceptible form which excludes mere thoughts and ideas from the copyright protection. In any event, copyright covers exclusively the expression of the personal creation of the author and not the tangible property in which such expression is embodied, which is subject to property law. Nevertheless, the authors of works of figurative art and the authors of original manuscripts are also entitled to a royalty on the price of each sale subsequent to the first transfer of the original artwork (the so-called "droit de suite").

Also industrial design works may be covered by copyright under certain circumstances. Indeed, the threshold for such type of works to access copyright protection is set over the two requisites of creative character and artistic value.

Artistic value implies that originality, from an aesthetic point of view, prevails over the functionality of the product and is higher than that of other works on the market, in the consumers' perception.

Among others, the Court of Milan respectively in 2006 and 2007 held that the famous "Panton chair" by Verner Panton and the "Arco lamp" by Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni enjoyed artistic value enough to be copyrightable. The Court maintained that, in order to assess the artistic value, it is necessary to carry out a complex analysis, taking into consideration many concurring factors such as the relevant historical and cultural context and background, in view of ascertaining as objectively as possible whether the design at issue has taken root in the public, and in cultural circles in a wider sense.

In summary, the threshold for an industrial design product to enjoy copyright protection is still quite high and even famous industrial design products have been denied such protection by Italian Courts.

-Will the work be protected in other countries?

The protection granted by the Italian copyright law shall apply to all works of Italian authors, wherever first published. Indeed, copyright protection is governed by the Italian law according with the so-called principle of citizenship.

Moreover, the copyright protection shall likewise apply to the works of foreign authors domiciled in Italy which are first published in this country, as an expression of the so-called principle of territoriality.

Italy ratified most of the international treaties on copyrights, ensuring equal protection to both Italian and foreign works within the Italian territory, and recognizing the fundamental principles of copyright law and mutual rights protections. Among others, Italy ratified the following:

  • Revised Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1952)
  • Universal Copyright Convention (1952)
  • Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (1961)
  • World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights – TRIPS (1994)
  • World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (1996)
  • WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (1996).

-What are the requirements for copyright protection?

According to Italian copyright law, copyright arises automatically when a work is created and does not require formalities or registration. Once an idea has a tangible form the author is entitled to enforce his/her exclusive rights therein. Normally, the exploitation rights in a work last throughout the lifetime of the author and until the end of the seventieth calendar year after his/her death. In case of anonymous or pseudonymous works the duration of the exploitation rights is 70 years from the date of first publication, irrespective of the form in which publication was effected.

However, despite the fact that copyright protection is granted automatically when a work is created, it is possible to file the work for registration with the Italian Collecting Society (so-called "SIAE"), a public body that has a central role in the exercise of economic rights, although membership is not mandatory. In fact, SIAE is entitled to act as an intermediary in granting of licenses and authorizations for the utilisation of protected works, and collecting the relevant revenues in the interest of right holders.

In particular, SIAE manages the Public Register for Cinematographic Works (herein "PRCW"), the Public Register for computer programs (herein "PRCP") and a service of deposit of unpublished works. Membership to SIAE and the registration of works with the registers are not compulsory. However, registration is useful to provide authors with official evidence of the existence of their works and right to exploit them commercially.

Indeed, the registration with PRCW and the PRCP gives certainty of the existence of the work and can also record deeds that transfer either part or all of the economic exploitation rights on software (such as usufruct, pledges, division of ownership). Similarly, depositing unpublished works at SIAE provides the evidence of the existence of the work at a given date and may be useful in view of asserting copyright against infringers. The latter, however, are admitted to rebut the information contained in the Registers by providing counter-evidence.

-What are the author's rights under the national law?

Under Italian law the authors of copyrighted works are granted with moral and economic rights.

Moral rights are enjoyed by the author of the work personally, and cannot be waived, licensed or assigned. In fact the author has the right to be identified as the author and to object to any distortion, mutilation or any other modification of, and other derogatory action in relation to, the work, which would be prejudicial to his/her honour or reputation. Moreover, the Italian law gives the author the choice to withdraw his/her work from the market whenever serious moral reasons arise. After the death of the author, the moral rights may be asserted, without limitation of time, by his/her heirs. In this context, the heirs are also entitled to publish the unpublished works unless the author has expressly forbidden publication or has entrusted it to other persons.

Furthermore, the author has the rights of economic exploitation of the work. These include the right to create copies or reproductions of the work and to sell and distribute them, the right to import or export the work, to create derivative works, to perform or display the work publicly, to sell or assign the rights themselves to third parties and to transmit or display the work by radio or video. Adaptations or other transformations of a work may be published or exploited only with the consent of the author of the adapted or transformed work.

In order to balance the author's rights in his/her works with the public’s general right to freely access them, the Italian law provides for a number of limitations to an author's rights. Indeed, reproduction of copyright protected content does not lead to a copyright infringement, if the act of copying is justified by legitimate reasons.

The limitations and exceptions to copyrights include, inter alia, the use of the work under certain circumstances:

  • For private purposes (i.e. personal use only and not made for profit)
  • For the benefit of the general public, such as use for public speeches or other public communications
  • For education and information purposes.
  • Italian copyright law allows the private copying of phonograms and video-frames on any support, made by any individual for personal use only, provided it has not been made for profit, it does not have any direct or indirect commercial purpose and the technological measures implemented for protection are respected. If one of these requirements is met, the private purposes exemption is normally granted.

-How do you license copyrights?

The transfer and the license of protected works are governed by Article 107.  Exploitation rights belonging to the authors of intellectual works may be acquired, sold or transferred in any manner or form allowed by law.

As a general principle, the parties to copyright agreements, which are not regulated by Italian copyright law, shall analytically indicate which exploitation right is transferred or licensed. In the absence of agreement to the contrary, the transfer of one or more copies of the work shall not imply transfer of the exploitation rights. In any case, the transfer of exploitation rights shall be set out in writing.

Furthermore, the transfer of the tangible means used to reproduce the copyrighted work shall be deemed, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, to include the right to reproduce the work, provided such right belongs to the transferor.

The age from which a person is deemed capable of accomplishing all legal acts relating to his/her works is 16. From this age a person is entitled to transfer or license the exploitation rights to third parties.