What does the recently revisited Belgian copyright law for scholarly publications say, actually ?

My previous blog post triggered a lot of interpretations on the actual content, extend and meaning of the amendments to the Belgian copyright law. The best response is the actual text, translated here.

Art. 29.

In article XI.196 [of the Code of economic law], inserted by the law of 19 April 2014, a paragraph 2/1 is inserted as follows:
 » § 2/1. The author of a scientific article resulting from publicly funded research shall retain, even if, in accordance with Article XI.167, he has assigned his rights to a publisher of a periodical or placed them under a simple or exclusive licence, the right to make the manuscript freely available to the public for free access after 12 months for the human and social sciences and 6 months for the other sciences, after the first publication, in a periodical, provided that the source of the first publication is mentioned.
The publishing contract may provide for a shorter period than that fixed in the first paragraph.
The King may extend the time limit set out in paragraph 1.
The right provided for in the first paragraph may not be waived. This right is mandatory and applies notwithstanding the right chosen by the parties as soon as a connecting point is located in Belgium. It shall also apply to works created before the entry into force of this paragraph and not in the public domain at that time.”

Except for the potential loophole of the King (i.e. the Federal Government)’s good will who can, for some obscure reason (publishers’ lobbying ?) extend the embargo period in an undefined way, and which appears as a very weak point, the rest of the text is quite strong: the right to re-publish and re-use is mandatory and irrecusable. It overrides any previous contract between the author and the publisher, even anterior to the law itself.

Of course, one would presume it applies to Belgian citizens in a scholarly institution in Belgium, leaving a fuzzy zone when the author is working abroad transiently or when he/she is a coauthor among foreign researchers…

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