Legal aspects of the protection of state symbols of the Republic of Bulgaria
Source: Bulgaria On Air
The coat of arms, the national flag and the national anthem are state symbols of the Republic of Bulgaria. Their significance, as well as the one of the state seal and the capital of the country, are of an extremely high degree of importance and for that reason are regulated in a separate chapter of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria.
In the context of the case of the reworking of the national anthem of the Republic of Bulgaria into a pop folk song, recently Att. Emilyan Arnaudov commented the legal aspects of the protection of national symbols in the studio of Bulgaria Morning on Bulgaria On Air TV. Att. Arnaudov pointed what sanctions can be imposed in case someone tarnishes them.
There are two main legal aspects to the protection of our national symbols – from a criminal law perspective and from a copyright law perspective.
The coat of arms, the national flag and the national anthem symbolize the independence and sovereignty of our country. Therefore, the symbols of the State are of paramount importance, and their desecration is a crime under Art. 108 of the Criminal Code.
Any person may refer the matter to the prosecutor’s office in case of defamation of the national symbols of the Republic of Bulgaria since the commission of a crime under Art. 108 of the Criminal Code affects public instead of a private interest.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office should refer and initiate an investigation or inquiry into a crime under Art. 108 of the Criminal Code when: a report has been made by a person to a prosecutor or investigating police officer – in written or oral form, (it is required that the report is not anonymous) ; in case of information through the mass media about a committed crime; when the offender appears in person before a prosecutor or investigating police officer with a confession of the crime; upon immediate discovery by a prosecutor or investigating authority of signs of a crime.
Any person who tarnishes or disgraces in any way the coat of arms, the flag or the anthem of the Republic of Bulgaria shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or by a fine not exceeding three thousand leva.
The penalty of imprisonment and the penalty of a fine cannot be imposed cumulatively – one or the other shall be imposed. As imprisonment being more severe of the two, its imposition shall preclude the imposition of a fine.
In copyright law perspective, copyright protection extends for up to 70 years after the death of the author.
Even after the expiration of these 70 years, the right of the State to require through the Ministry of Culture that the author’s name, pseudonym or other identifying sign is appropriately indicated in any use of the work, to require that the integrity of the work is preserved, to oppose any alteration of the work, and to oppose any other action that might violate the legitimate interests of the author or his personal dignity is preserved forever.
For legal purpose, for the creation of a cover version, i.e., a new recording or performance of an existing song, the consent of the songwriter is required.
Copyright is inheritable and after the death of the author, his heirs have the right of protection. In the order given, if the creation of a cover version concerns the 70-year period after the death of the author, the consent of his heirs is necessary. If the author has no heirs or if the heirs die before the expiry of the above-mentioned period, the copyright passes to the State, which exercises it through the Ministry of Culture during the 70-year period. If the author was a member of a collective rights management organization the copyright passes to that organization.
In the event that the creation of a cover version relates to a period after 70 years since the death of the author have elapsed, the Ministry of Culture has the right to demand the preservation of the integrity of the work, to oppose any changes to it, and to any other action that might violate the legitimate interests of the author or his personal dignity.
With the latest amendments to the Copyright and Related Rights Act – which have been adopted at first reading and which are likely to be in force by the end of the year – this protection will be extended to extremely old works, i.e. even those whose 70-year term of protection has expired before the amendments come into force. This means that the effect of these changes will extend to all works that would be subject to such protection by the Ministry of Culture.
If the material through which a crime concerning the national symbols of the country was committed is deleted, destroyed or missing for any other reason – it is not an obstacle to initiate the relevant criminal investigation proceedings under the Criminal Code.
We hope that with the entry into force of the amendments to the Copyright and Related Rights Act, the necessary comprehensive legal protection will be provided not only to the state symbols of the Republic of Bulgaria, but also to other works whose term of copyright protection has expired, but are permanently embedded in the Bulgarian national spirit and culture.