The Combined licence or reprography declaration? - both options clearly explained for you

Before submitting your annual declaration to Reprobel, take ten minutes to carefully read this text. It is important so that, as a company, self-employed person, liberal professional, non-profit organisation or public institution, you can make an informed choice for the right declaration and licence formula at Reprobel for a specific reference year.

A free choice, but not an optional one

On the Reprobel declaration portal, you as a company, self-employed person, liberal professional, non-profit organisation or government institution can choose between the combined licence (digital and paper) or a reprography declaration (photocopies). We will clearly explain the difference between the two options. Consider your choice carefully and do a thorough investigation beforehand into the actual use of external copyright-protected texts and images in your organisation, both digital and paper. You are free to choose between the two options, but Reprobel can check your declaration and contest it if necessary. Incorrect or incomplete declarations, or established copyright infringements, can lead to sanctions. After all, copyright, like trademark or patent law, is an intellectual property right and therefore a ‘prohibition right’. You are not allowed to use external copyrighted texts and images without the explicit and specific permission of the rights holder(s), – the author(s) or publisher – unless the law provides a copyright exception. Your choice is therefore free, but not without obligation. As a partner of Belgian companies, Reprobel wants to offer you maximum protection against copyright infringements, with the right formula tailored to your actual use of external copyright-protected texts and images in the calendar year for which you are making a declaration.

Copyright in the digital world

Article XI.165, ยง1, paragraphs 1 and 4 of the Code of Economic Law stipulates that your company/institution needs the permission of the rightholder(s) – i.e. a licence – for every digital copy, every print and every scan of company-external copyrighted texts and images. The same applies if you communicate, share or distribute such works digitally internally or externally (e.g. via e-mail, intranet, chat, etc.), or if you incorporate them into a physical or digital presentation. There is no legal exception to copyright for quoting by companies and government institutions (with the exception of recognised educational institutions, but these fall under a separate regime). So digital copying of parts of protected texts and images must also be arranged through licensing. Only photocopies of protected works are subject to a legal exception: you may take such photocopies, but for this you must make a legally required declaration to Reprobel and pay a reprography remuneration.

You do not need a licence if you have created the protected work yourself as a company or institution. However, you must then create the work yourself. If, for example, you use externally protected texts or images to decorate your own report, you do need a licence for this.

In today’s digital world, it is very easy to reuse copyright-protected texts and images found on the internet within your company or institution. Some examples. Cutting and pasting copyrighted texts and images. Saving an interesting article from the internet on a smartphone, tablet, computer or server. Sharing this article digitally with colleagues or with a consultant outside the company. A Teams or Zoom meeting showing external, protected texts and images. Incorporating a protected photo from Google or Bing into a PowerPoint presentation. Quickly printing off that interesting report for the trainride. Sharing cartoons or quotes in a professional context.

A copyright-protected work is a work that is the result of a creative or intellectual effort and bears the ‘personal stamp’ of the author. Typical examples of protected texts and images include professional literature, scientific and educational works, fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, comics, blogs, poems, press articles, photographs, illustrations, graphics, cartoons, quotes and song lyrics. Databases can also be protected by copyright, but they are additionally regulated by specific legislation. Trivial works with no creative or intellectual choices (such as holiday photos) are not protected by copyright. Technical or professional documents can, however be protected by their specific structure and choice of words – so copyright is not limited to ‘artistic’ works. A work does not have to be deposited or registered to be copyrighted; protection is form-free. Protection applies until 70 years after the death of the (longest living) author. Copyright protects the specific form of the work – you may not use the work in this specific form (e.g. by copying a text or copying part of it verbatim into another text) without the permission of the rights holder(s), unless the law provides an exception to this rule.

You can try to negotiate individual licences yourself for each digital use of external copyrighted texts and images with the relevant rights holders, but that can be a real titanic work. There are millions of protected source works on the internet, and more are added every day. Many online source works – think of a photo on Google or Bing, for example – do not mention the name or contact details of the rights holder(s). By the way, the rights holder can also be foreign. So it is often unclear whether, where and how you can take out an individual licence. Additionally, it is important that you consult the licence terms. These licence terms should be interpreted restrictively by the way: what is not explicitly and specifically permitted by the rights holder is prohibited.

If you have your own employed staff, things get a bit more difficult. You must then ensure that you have concluded a conclusive individual licence for each digital reproduction, quotation, communication or presentation of external copyright-protected texts and images for the professional use of each of your employees. However, it may not be easy for your company or institution to fully map the use of externally protected texts and images to all your employees.

You have already realised by now that trying to arrange copyright licences yourself can be a difficult and time-consuming task in the digital world. Nor is this your core business. That is why Reprobel has developed the ‘combined licence’. With this licence, you can arrange most forms of digital use of externally protected texts and images in one convenient bundle, for Belgian source works but also for an extensive foreign repertoire.


Reprobel’s two declaration and licensing options


More than 50,000 Belgian companies, self-employed, liberal professionals, non-profit organisations and public institutions have already opted for the ‘combined license’ of Reprobel. This extensive licence covers in one convenient bundle most forms of digital reproduction / quotation / communication / presentation, as well as your paper reproductions (photocopies and prints) of company external texts and images protected by copyright. You no longer have to arrange individually each separate use with the rights holder(s), but you pay an annual fee for all uses within the licence limits and the Reprobel repertoire together. The licence coverage applies not only to Belgian but also to a wide selection of foreign source works – REPROBEL’s repertoire is virtually worldwide.

Like other copyright licences, the combined licence has a specific scope. In short, the combined licence covers digital copies or quotations from the Internet, internal digital communication within your company or institution, external 1-to-1 or 1-to-few digital communication (e.g. with your legal counsel or accountant), prints, scans, internal presentations, digital archiving and photocopies of copyright-protected texts and images (or parts thereof) in Reprobel’s domestic and foreign repertoire.

However, publication on a public website or on social media and 1-to-many external communications such as newsletters and promotional campaigns, are not covered by the combined licence. The combined licence also does not provide coverage if an individual licence is available on the market for a specific use (e.g. for databases, e-books, structural use of press articles or digital press reviews). If an individual licence is available, you must arrange this directly and additionally with the rights holder or its management company.

The rates of the combined licence are tailored to your sector (nacebel) and to your company size. A self-employed person without staff pays (for reference year 2022) a maximum of EUR 45 VAT exclusive on an annual basis, companies with less than 5 FTE pay a maximum of EUR 85 VAT exclusive (VAT always at the reduced 6% copyright rate). Larger companies pay a fixed annual fee per relevant staff member (employees)) in FTE, with three rate categories according to their sector (basic administrative fee of EUR 25 + EUR 12, EUR 17 or EUR 25 respectively per relevant FTE, VAT exclusive, for reference year 2022). A separate rate per relevant FTE applies to the public sector. Reprobel has concluded more than 50 sector agreements for the combined licence, in almost all professional sectors. You can find our sector agreements at the bottom of the homepage of this website. If you are a member of a sector organisation that has a Reprobel promo code, you will receive a discount on the licence fee on our portal.



On the Reprobel portal, you can also opt for a more limited ‘reprography declaration’ (articles XI.235-239 and XI.318/1-6 of the Economic Law Code and 2 Royal Decrees of 5 March 2017 relating to the reprography remuneration for authors and the corresponding publisher’s remuneration). Photocopies are subject to a statutory exception to the rule that you need a licence to use protected works. As a company or institution, you may therefore take photocopies of these kind of works without permission from the rights holder. On the other hand, there is a legal declaration and remuneration obligation towards Reprobel as centrally collecting management company. This special arrangement for photocopies is the only exception to copyright for companies and public institutions (which are not recognised educational institutions). For all forms of digital reproduction, quotation, communication, distribution and presentation of protected works, and also for printouts, the general licence obligation of Article XI.165 of the Economic Code applies.

With a reprography declaration, you pay a fixed page fee for photocopies of protected work of EUR 0.0554 VAT exclusive (VAT 6%). As a smaller company, you can also opt for a ‘standardised declaration’ for photocopies at a fixed annual fee per FTE employee: EUR 8, EUR 12 or EUR 20 VAT exclusive per reference year, depending on your tariff category. (By the way, the rates per relevant FTE for the combined licence are based on this Ministerial Decree, with a limited surcharge for digital use). For prints of protected work, you can additionally checkout at a fixed page rate of EUR 0.066 VAT exclusive. For any paper press reviews, you always checkout additionally on a page basis. If you do not take paper reproductions of protected works, you can file a ‘zero declaration’ for these.

However, caution should be exercised. After all, with a reprography declaration you do not receive any supplementary digital licence coverage through Reprobel for the use of protected work, whereas digital reproduction and communication have become common practice within companies and institutions today. For the digital use of externally protected texts and images, the combined licence may be the preferred option for your company or institution (see option 1). You can read below under which conditions you can make a valid reprography declaration. Consider your choice carefully.

When are you copyright compliant?

DIGITAL USE OF PROTECTED WORK – If your company or institution digitally copies, scans, communicates, spreads, shares, reproduces or displays external copyrighted texts and images, and if you have taken out Reprobel’s combined licence to do so and/or if you perform acts not covered by this licence (e.g. publication on a public website or social media, 1-to-many external communications such as digital newsletters, acts for which an individual licence is offered such as databases and structural use of press articles, or acts that are not part of Reprobel’s repertoire) are additionally arranged with the rights holder or his management company.

PAPER REPRODUCTIONS OF PROTECTED WORK – If your company or institution has not made any digital use of external copyrighted texts and images, but has taken paper reproductions of this type of work, you must file a reprography declaration with Reprobel: on a volume basis for photocopies, prints and paper press reviews, or standardised for photocopies. If you also do not take any photocopies or prints of externally protected work, you can file a zero declaration’ with Reprobel.

However, you must carefully check the (digital and paper) use of externally protected texts and images for yourself and all employees of your company or institution, for the calendar year for which you are making a declaration. Reprobel has the legal right to check your use of externally protected texts and images in its repertoire: for digital use (including prints) on the basis of articles XI.261 and XI.263 of the Economic Law Code, and for photocopies on the basis of the legitimate supervisory powers provided for in the two Royal Decrees on reprography of 5 March 2017.

If your company or institution falls within the scope of the reprography regulation, you must make a timely and correct annual declaration to Reprobel. Late or clearly incorrect declarations within the scope of this regulation are subject to legal sanctions. For established digital copyright infringements, the penalty is usually many times higher than the normal licence fee. In the first place, the rights holders themselves (the authors or publishers whose work you have used without permission) can take legal action against you for infringements of their intellectual property rights, but Reprobel is also mandated to do so.

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