Authors rights

Author’s rights: Brief chronology

Up to the 18th century, the works of intellectual creation depended, totally and exclusively, of the privilege which benefited printers and publishers, but hardly or didn’t benefit the authors.
On April 10, 1710, in England, a law is passed, which was known as Queen Anne’s Statute : “… law to encourage science and guaranty the ownership of printed books ….”

1725 – The expression  “Author’s Right” is used by the first time by the French lawyer Louis d’Héricourt during a legal action between booksellers of Paris.

1777 – The French playwright Beaumarchais encourages the theatre authors to organize themselves in the defence of their rights that were systematically usurped by the performance’s promoters.

1826 – In Portugal, article 145, §24 of the Constitutional Letter, acknowledges to the inventors “the ownership of their discoveries or productions”, but it doesn’t assure the literary creation’s protection.
Almeida Garrett writes about the lack of protection of national authors:
“… With the end of the privilege, if it was temporary or didn’t exist, it was understood that every printed work entered in public domain and that, dead or alive, with or without heirs, anyone could reprint it, sell it, perform it, in case of dramatic work, use it, as if it was its own or of no one, it was the same.”

1838 – The Portuguese Constitution stated in its article 23, §4, “ the ownership’s right of the inventors over their discoveries and of the writers over their writings”… for the time and way that the law determines…”. Nevertheless, the law was missing something that would regulate the matter in its specificities.

1839 – Garrett presents to the Chamber of Deputies a bill on literary and artistic propriety. In 1841, the bill is approved, but it didn’t pass as law due to the unfavourable political circumstances.

 – The bill returns to the Chamber where it’s approved and published and, on July 18 of that same year, the first Portuguese law on Author’s right is published. This law is kept in force until 1867,  year in which the subject-matter regarding Author’s Right is inserted in the Civil Code, drafted by Viscount  Seabra. According to article 579 of the Civil Code, the heirs’ right to publish or authorize a work’s publishing is risen from 30 to 50 consecutive years after the author’s death.

1873 – By initiative of the writer Costa Braga, the first attempt of forming a society to defend author’s rights and theatre composers took place. The theatre writers César de Lacerda, Joaquim Augusto de Oliveira, Carlos Borges and Sousa Bastos constituted a commission, but the initiative fell through.

1886 – After three diplomatic conferences carried out in Bern, between 1884 and 1886, on September 9, 1886, in Bern, the convention which institutes “The International Union of nations for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” is signed, with the participation of Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Italy and Switzerland.

1911 – The Provisional Government of the Portuguese Republic signs the decree of Portugal’s adhesion to the Bern’s Union. Henrique Lopes de Mendonça, together with some theatre authors, formed the Association of Class of Portuguese Dramatic Authors, which had a short life and wasn’t able to gather more than 50 members.

1925 – In the last months of 1924, SECTP (Society of Portuguese Theatre Writers and Composers) is created as a Public limited cooperative, of limited liability, founded by Mário Duarte, theatre author and translator, along with Júlio Dantas, Henrique Lopes de Mendonça, Félix Bermudes, Feliciano Santos, Lino Ferrão, José Galhardo, Almeida Cruz, André Brun, João Bastos, Ernesto Rodrigues and the composers Alves Coelho, Carlos Calderón and Luz Júnior, with head office at Praça dos Restauradores, no. 13 (head office of the Magazine “De Teatro”, of which Mário Duarte was director) with the goal of  “… uniting Portuguese theatre writers and musical composers in order to defend their rights and improve their interests…”.
On May 22, 1925 the deed of SCETP’s creation is signed at Dr. Facco Viana’s registry, in Lisbon.
The writer Júlio Dantas is elected  President of SECTP.
In the first statutes, two categories of members were foreseen: founding members and ordinary members. The founding members were those who had more than twelve performed parts of a play or, in the case of composers, more that twelve compositions, or two plays for a concert presented in public theatres. All of those who didn’t fulfil these requirements were ordinary members. This qualification was changed at the General Assembly of November 11, 1928, in which a new category of administrated member is created.
Also in 1925, Porto’s delegation is established, under the responsibility of Casa Moreira e Sá.
(For further information please refer to SPA’s history on this site)

1926 – On June 22, the Decree no. 10.860 is published in the Government’s Journal, signed by the President of the Republic, Manuel Teixeira Gomes, that acknowledges to SECTP “…legal status as a legally constituted association for the due purposes of affirmation of the intellectual propriety rights under the terms of the domestic and foreign legislation in force…”.
In this same year, CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) is created, to which SECTP immediately joins.

 – Decree Law no. 13.725, known as Law Cunha Gonçalves, starts regulating the literary propriety in Portugal.

1966 – The Author’s Right Code enters in force, approved by the Decree-law no. 46.980, of April 27, 1966.

1989 – Constitution of GESAC (European Group of Societies of Authors and Composers), of which SPA is a founding member.