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5.4. Copyright

5.4.1. Reproduction rights (copyright notice)

The copyright is the exclusive right that an author or an editor holds to exploit a literary or artistic work for a given duration.

Protection formalities are satisfied if all copies of a publication have a copyright notice – reproduction rights – informing the public of the protection of the author’s rights in the publication in question:

© [name of the holder], [year]
for example:
© European Union, 2018

For the institutions, bodies and agencies of the European Union, there are two types of copyright depending on whether the entity to which the author service belongs has legal personality or not.


Institutions and bodies without legal personality

In the case of official publications of the European Union institutions or bodies and the related interinstitutional services (such as the Publications Office), the copyright belongs to the European Union as a whole, and not to each institution or body individually, with the exception of those having their own legal personality (the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund):

© European Union, [year]

Before implementation of the Lisbon Treaty (up to 30 November 2009):
© European Communities, [year]


Entities with legal personality

Institutions and bodies

The European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund have their own legal personality and, accordingly, their own copyright:

© European Central Bank, [year]
© European Investment Bank, [year]
© European Investment Fund, [year]
Use the full denomination, not just the abbreviation:
© European Central Bank, [year]
and not © ECB, [year]
Decentralised organisations (agencies)

The decentralised organisations (agencies; see Section 9.5.3 for the full list) have their own legal personality and must therefore be designated by name as holder of the copyright:

© European Environment Agency, [year]
Use the full denomination, not just the abbreviation:
© European Border and Coast Guard Agency, [year]
or possibly:
© European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), [year]
and not © Frontex, [year]
If the copyright has been transferred to the European Union by contract or other legal document:
© European Union, [year]

Documents drawn up within the scope of the Euratom Treaty (and under the Euratom budget line) must carry their own reproduction rights:

© European Atomic Energy Community, [year]

This is the case, for example, for various documents or specialised publications in the field of atomic energy published by the Joint Research Centre.


Note on the year

The duration of protection of an EU publication in a given language begins from the date of its first publication. The year in the copyright notice is therefore not the year of publication of the original language version, but that of publication of the language version in question.

When a publication is first printed in a given language, the year of publication and the copyright year are the same. In the event of reprinting, the copyright notice remains unchanged. On the other hand, in the case of new editions, which constitute new publications, the date of the copyright notice should correspond to the year of publication of the new edition.

When the format of a publication is changed (e.g. going from paper to an e-book), the edition year is the same as the original edition if no changes have been made. If substantial changes are made, a new edition is published, and not only should the publication date of the first edition be published (in this example the paper version), but also that of the new one (e-book).


Graphical and artistic elements

If the publication contains elements (photographs, illustrations, graphs, texts, etc.) whose copyright belongs to a third party or if the European Union has not obtained all the rights to a publication, the source of each element and, if need be, their conditions of use must be clearly indicated. Author services (institutions, bodies, agencies) must obtain written authorisation from the copyright holders of these elements (see Section 5.4.4).

Copyright also applies to electronic publications, and thus to any text published on the internet. See also the Europa webpage on copyright notice (

For literary, artistic or scientific works, see also the guidelines on moral rights relating to officials ( (internal link for staff of the European Union institutions)).

For any questions, contact the service in charge of copyright at the Publications Office (
Last updated: 29.8.2019
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