Economic Rights

The economic rights protect the author’s business & profit interests and allow the author to earn a profit by direct or indirect exploitation of a work.

Listen to Audio Lesson on Economic Rights in Copyright


Economic rights give the owner of copyright the exclusive right to authorize or prohibit certain uses of a work. The scope of these rights, and the limitations and exceptions, differ, depending on the type of work concerned, and they also vary from country to country.

The economic rights include the exclusive rights to: 

Make reproductions or copies of the work in various forms.

For example, copying a CD, photocopying a book, downloading a computer program, scanning a text, printing a cartoon character on a T‐shirt, or incorporating a portion of a song into a new song. 

Distribute the work to the public.

Copyright allows its owner to prohibit others from selling, leasing, licensing, renting, or lending unauthorized copies of the work. However, in many countries, the right of distribution is limited by the “first sale” or “exhaustion” doctrine, which provides that once you have authorized the first sale or distribution of a particular copy or phonorecord, you have no say  over how that copy or phonorecord is further distributed in the relevant country’s territory. In other words, a copyright owner can control every detail of the “first sale” of the works, including timing, price, and conditions. But, once sold, the purchaser can then resell the copy or phonorecord, lend it to a library, or give it away, etc. However, the purchaser cannot make copies or prepare derivative works based on it.

Rent or lend copies of the work.

This right generally applies only to certain types of works, such as cinematographic works, musical works, or computer programs. Some countries do not recognize rental or lending rights, but, instead, grant the copyright owner the right to receive remuneration from such rental or lending of a copy of the work. 

Make translations or adaptations of the work.

Such works are called “derivative works.” For example, translating an English instruction manual into other languages, adapting a novel to make a movie, rewriting a computer program in a different computer language, making music arrangements, or making a toy based on a cartoon figure. If sufficiently original, derivative works are themselves protected by a separate copyright. 

Communicate the work to the public

This includes communication by means of public performance, recitation, display, broadcasting or communication by radio, cable, satellite, or Internet. For instance, ‘showing’ photographs on a website, or making broadcasts available through a public television set in a bar. 

Perform, show, or play the work in public

For example, performing plays and music, playing sound recordings, showing films or videos in public, exhibiting a painting in a gallery, delivering lectures in public, and enabling a broadcast to be seen or heard in public. 

Receive a percentage of the sale price if the work is resold

This is referred to as “resale right” or “droit de suite” and only applies in certain countries to certain types of works (e.g., paintings, drawings, prints, collages, sculptures, engravings, tapestries, ceramics, glassware, original manuscripts, etc.). Resale rights give creators the right to receive a share of the profit made on certain subsequent resales of their works. Such a share varies from 2% to 5% of the total sales price.