Some basics about copyright law in Mexico

July 7, 2008 at 1:16 AM 5 comments

Mexican law protects the author’s rights on the work through derecho de autor. Derecho de autor is often translated to English as copyright, but they are not exactly the same. However, in this article, I use copyright as the translation of derecho de autor.


1. Works are protected from the moment of creation


Works are protected by copyright from the moment they are created, materialized in any media and capable of being copied, regardless their merit or destiny. The work is protected when it is original or has certain degree of originality.


2. Copyright does not need registration


The registration of the work is not essential for copyright protection. Copyright is acknowledged without registering the work or fulfilling any particular formality. The registration of a work with the Public Copyright Registry, by itself, does not transform the registrant in author or make him holder of the copyright on the registered work.


The registration of a work originates a document that proves beyond any doubt the existence of the work at a given time, and the claim by the registrant of the copyright on the work. However, the registration is not the source of the copyright.


The aforementioned does not imply that registering a work is useless. On the contrary, it is an effective way to preparing evidence about the existence of the work, which may be extremely important in case of a dispute. Further, given that Mexican society is extremely formalistic and paper-oriented, the work has a higher status when registered. It is frequent that businessmen, authors and government officials (even from “specialized” agencies) acknowledge the existence of copyright only if the work is registered.


Registering a work with the Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor or Mexican Copyright Office (MCO) is relatively simple and, if done correctly, the MCO may issue the registration certificated in only four weeks.


3. Copyright provides two categories of rights: the personal rights and the economic rights


Copyright provides two different categories on rights: derechos morales or personal rights and derechos patrimoniales or economic rights. Only economic rights may be contractually assigned, provided that the parties comply with certain statutory formalities.


4. The purchase of the original work does not assign the copyright


Purchasing the original work does not imply in any way the acquisition of the copyright on the purchased work. The assignment of the copyright demands a specific written agreement with monetary consideration.


5. The existence of a work implies the existence of an author


In Mexican law, the existence of an individual identified as author is essential for the copyright; corporations cannot be authors, although they may be the copyright holders. Any entity claiming to be the copyright holder would have to demonstrate the chain of title from the author. This requirement may be particularly complicated for certain works, such as software, where it may be difficult to identify all the authors that had intervention in the work.


6. Ideas by themselves are not protected by copyright


It is necessary to materialize the idea through the work, and even so the subject matter of the protection would be the work, not the idea. The same idea may give place to different original works, and each one of them may have an independent protection. 


7. Trademarks, patents and copyright are not the same.


There are some similarities between patents, copyright and trademarks, but it is essential to clearly distinguish one from the others. Each kind of protection gives their holders different privileges and disadvantages in relation to the others.


Against to the opinion of many reputed colleagues, I think that the choice of a legal way of protecting an intellectual creation may exclude the others; for example, if the shape of an industrial product is registered as an industrial design as provided by the Industrial Property Law, it automatically excludes the possibility of claiming copyright on the same design. 


Entry filed under: Copyright law. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Donald M. Cislo, Esq.  |  June 3, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    Can a useful article such as furniture be copyrighted?

    • 2. Arturo D. Reyes  |  June 3, 2016 at 9:20 PM

      Yes, in theory. The federal coyright statute provides that any original work is protected by copyright regardless its merits and destiny. However, functional objects are sometimes difficult to register with the Mexican Copyright Office. As I state in this post, the statute expressly provides that registration is not mandatory in Mexico to obtain the full copyright protection, but in practice auhtorities are reluctant to protect works (all works, not just useful articles) that are not registered. My opinion is that, in practice, the chances of getting copyright protection in Mexico for useful articles such as furniture are better the more original the product is. Thank you for reading the blog!

  • 3. Erouda  |  July 19, 2017 at 12:35 PM

    does anyone know what how this law is labeled or stated if entered into a contract especially for a print release agreement for a photography client?

    • 4. Arturo D. Reyes  |  July 19, 2017 at 1:13 PM

      Stating the law as Mexican Federal Copyright Law (if the agreement is drafted in English) or Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor mexicana if the contract is drafted on Spanish would be safe. Thank you for reading the blog!

      • 5. Erouda Risch  |  July 19, 2017 at 1:45 PM

        Thank you for writing it! It was so simple to follow and understand!

        Thanks for the info its much appreciated 😊

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