Copyrights are rights that protect creations of the mind. The IP Law grants the exclusive legal right to copyright owners to exploit their “creative works in the domains of art and literature, including scientific works” (IP Law Article 3.25). Specifically, the following subject matters may be granted copyright protection under the IP Law:
Artistic works including:
- Paintings and drawings, carvings, lithography, cloth patterns, and other works of fine art;
- Sculptures, engravings, and other works of sculpture;
- Designs of buildings or constructions, designs of interior and exterior decoration, and other works of architecture;
- Illustrations, maps, plans, sketches, and three-dimensional figures relating to geography, topography, architecture, or science;
- Music composed for drama, show or stage performances, dance choreography, and other kinds of works composed for performances;
- Musical works with or without lyrics, including arranged and transcribed musical notes;
- Sound and image recordings (phonograms);
- Works of applied art; and
- Cinematographic works.
Literary works including:
- Books, theses, brochures, magazines, printed matter and other written works;
- Lectures, speeches, sermons and addresses and other recorded oral works;
- Plays and stories; and
- Computer programs and data compilations, whether in source or object code.
A draft copyright law was introduced in 2005, but it has not yet been enacted. However, the IP Law in 2011 contains a section on copyright which clarifies that copyright in Laos is an automatic protection, which arises immediately when the work is created without registration requirements. In addition, a Decision of the Ministry of Science and Technology on the Implementation of Law on Intellectual Property concerning Copy right was issued in 2012.
However, a notification of rights can be voluntarily recorded with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). In addition, Laos became a party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works on March 14, 2012.
The Berne Convention is based on three basic principles, as follows:
- Each of the contracting parties must give works originating in another contracting party the same protection as the works of its own nationals.
- Protection is automatic. No compliance with any formality is required.
- Protection does not depend on the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work, with limited exceptions.
The IP Law grants a copyright owner the exclusive right to exploit his or her work, including the moral and economic rights to the work. The moral rights include the exclusive right for the copyright owner to disclose and publish the work first; to have his or her name attached to the work; and to prevent misattribution, distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work or any action that would be prejudicial to the copyright owner’s honour or integrity.
The economic rights include, in sum, the exclusive right for the copyright owner to exploit his or her work through the making of collections, reproduction, distribution, translation, broadcasting, and communication of the work to the public by wire or wireless means. The IP Law further provides a long list of exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner, which vary depending on the type of work. For example, the copyright owner of a literary work is, in addition to the above-mentioned rights, granted the exclusive right to recite the work to the public, translate the recitation, and communicate the recitation to the public. An owner of a copyrighted dramatic or musical work is granted the exclusive right to perform the work to the public, translate the work, and communicate the performance of the work to the public. (For the full list of a copyright owner’s economic rights, please see Article 98 of the IP Law).
Duration of Protection
Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 50 years, or for a work of joint authorship, 50 years after the date of death of the last surviving author. For anonymous or pseudonymous works, the term of copyright is 50 years from the date the work was lawfully made available to the public. For a cinematographic work, the term of copyright is 50 years from the date the work was made available to the public with the consent of the author. For applied art, the term of copyright is 25 years from the date the work was created.