Droit d'auteur

Are creative commons licenses legally valid in Belgium?

Since 2001, the non-profit organisation Creative Commons has been making a series of licenses available ('Creative Commons licenses', or 'CC licenses' for short), which aim to facilitate the legal sharing and re-use of creative works protected by copyright. In practical terms, these CC licenses are a set of standardised licensing terms, which can be used to easily communicate under which conditions the author allows the use of such works (including texts, songs, movies etc). One of the aims of the licenses has always been to ensure that they could be used (and enforced) globally on equal terms.

In Belgium, a case revolving around the validity of CC licenses was decided in 2010 by the Commercial Court of Nivelles. As expected, it ruled that one of these CC licenses could be enforced against infringing use. In this case, a song of the folk band Lichôdmapwa had been made available via the website Dogmazic, under the CC license BY-NC-ND. This license allows re-use of the work, provided that the authors (the members of the folk band) are properly credited (BY), that no commercial use is made of the work (Non-Commercial, NC), and that no derivative works are made (Non-Derivative, ND). However, the organisers of the Festival de Théâtre de Spa had used a 20-second snippet of the song in an advertisement which was aired a total of 415 times, which the band argued violated all three restrictions.

After explicitly examining the enforcability of the CC BY-NC-ND license, the Court agreed that this use violated the copyrights of the band members, referencing similar decisions in the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.