The Maltese Copyright Act

Copyright Protection Literary works

The Maltese Copyright Act provides that the term literary work shall include, any of the following, or works similar thereto:

(a) novels, stories and poetical works;
(b) plays, stage directions, choreographic works or entertainment in dumb show, film scenarios and broadcasting script;
(c) textbooks, treatises, histories, biographies, essays and articles;
(d) encyclopaedias and dictionaries;
(e) letters, reports and memoranda;
(f) lectures, addresses and sermons;
(g) computer programmes.

It is important to note that this protection is offered irrespective of the literary quality of the work.

Copyright Protection Musical works

The law provides that the term musical work shall refer to any musical work, irrespective of musical quality, and includes works composed for musical accompaniment. Under this category, one also finds song lyrics which qualify as literary works.

Copyright Protection Artistic works

Irrespective of artistic quality, this term includes the following:

(a) paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, engravings and prints;
(b) maps, plans, diagrams and three-dimensional works relative to geography, science or topography, but excluding semiconductor product topographies;
(c) works of sculpture (including the cast or mould);
(d) photographs not comprised in an audiovisual work;
(e) works of architecture in the form of buildings or models; and
(f) works of artistic craftsmanship, including pictorial woven tissues and articles of applied handicraft and industrial art.


A work will only be eligible for copyright if it satisfies three criteria, namely qualification, originality and fixation.


Copyright is granted to an eligible work automatically. Therefore there is no need for registration under Maltese law as the Act provides that protection is granted ipso jure upon creation of the work. This protection is obviously limited by territoriality. The main connecting factors would be domicile or citizenship of the creation. Through a network of Conventions to which Malta is a party, the litigations presented by territoriality are, to a large extent, reduced. Copyright protection is also conferred on every work which is eligible for copyright and which is made or first published in Malta.

Terms of protection

Upon establishing that a work is entitled to copyright protection under the Act, such protection shall subsist for 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies, irrespective of the date when the work is made available to the public.

Rights Conferred through Copyright Protection

Copyright endows the author of a literary, musical or artistic work with two categories of rights material and moral. Material rights further sub-divide into reproduction and distribution rights, and performance rights. Moral rights are personal rights and arise from the amount of intellectual or physical creativity exercised by the author.


Copyright is infringed by any person who, without a licence from the copyright owner, does any of the prohibited acts listed in the Act. A licence is an express or implied authorisation by the copyright owner to do one or more of such acts.

The two classes of infringement are: primary and secondary infringement. The former refers to situations when a person, performs any of the prohibited acts that are the exclusive competence of the author, without the necessary authorisation, e.g. copying the materials in a CD. The latter refers to situations where an infringer deals in articles that have already breached copyright, e.g. selling pirated CDs.

The law also provides for direct or indirect infringement. The former is the emulation of protected material in its original form. The latter is the copying of the protected work in a form recognisably derived from the original.

Transfer of Copyright

As in other forms of IP, copyright is transferred through assignment, by operation of law or by testamentary disposition as movable property. An assignment or testamentary disposition of copyright may be limited or non-limited, according to the wishes of the copyright owner. The assignment of copyright can only be perfected by means of an agreement in writing between the parties.