On 26 February 2019, the Hellenic Copyright Organization (Greek acronym: “OPI”) launched a new online service for “electronic timestamping” of all types of works.

The service, which can be accessed at www.timestamp.gr/en , claims to offer the opportunity to creators, both amateurs and professionals, to easily get certified proof of existence of their work at a specific time, in order to be prepared to prove the priority of their rights of intellectual property or related rights if a case of infringement or another related dispute arises in the future.

The authority of OPI to establish the new online platform was provided by article 54 par. 11 of Law 4481/2017, amending article 69 par. 1 of Greek Copyright Law 2121/1993 regarding the services that OPI may provide.

It shall firstly be explicitly noted that the timestamp certification does not provide any kind of proof that the specific work contained in the submitted file is indeed protected by intellectual property law or that the person who uploaded the file is the holder of copyright or related rights over this work. These conclusions can only be reached by the competent Court, in case of a future dispute, on the basis of whether the work constitutes an “original intellectual creation, either literary, artistic or scientific, expressed in any form”, as per article 2 of Copyright Law 2121/1993.

On the other hand, the timestamp does not, in any case, constitute a precondition or a requirement for the protection of a work by intellectual property law. As provided by Greek Copyright Law 2121/1993 as well as by International Treaties on Copyright ratified in Greece, intellectual property rights are acquired automatically, at the time of creation of a work, and there are, thus, no requirements or formalities to be followed in order for a work to be copyright protected.

In short, the aim of the new timestamping service is to provide a certification which can prove the specific time and date when a digital file existed.

Any kind of work may be submitted for timestamping through the new service, in the form of a digital file of any type, such as, indicatively, a text, image, sound or video file. According to OPI, the submitted file is not kept in an electronic database and it is not available to be accessed by any person, thus ensuring the confidentiality of the submitted work and of the procedure.

Through the timestamping process the digital file containing the relevant work is uniquely identified and is connected to the specific time and date when it is submitted. The user of the service can complete the process simply by uploading the work in a digital form, filing-in some necessary information regarding the specific work and paying the relevant fee. The user shall then receive a Certificate in a printable form, both in Greek and in English, which bears OPI’s digital signature and includes information regarding the identity of the submitted file, the name of the user who uploaded it and the specific time that has been attributed to it. At the same time, the timestamping system also generates two other non-readable files which can be used, along with the originally uploaded file, in order to digitally verify the timestamped work, if later needed.

As the Certificate provided cannot by itself prove the exact content of the timestamped file, OPI’s online service also provides for an electronic verification process, which can be used in case of a dispute. This verification process can prove that a specific file is the one that had been timestamped at an indicated time and, thus, the one which is referred to in a certain timestamping Certificate. In order for the verification to work the user shall provide the system with the two non-readable files generated at the time of timestamping as well as with the originally submitted file which contains the work in question. It is of the outmost importance that the file originally submitted for timestamping is saved in the user’s own records (as the system does not save this file) and that it is not in any way edited or modified after timestamping is concluded. The purpose of the verification process is to prove that the file requested for verification is exactly the one which had been “stamped” at a specific time.

The cost of the timestamping service depends on the size of the uploaded file that contains the work requested to be “timestamped”. In particular, the prices set by OPI, before VAT (24%), are as follows: For uploaded files with a size of up to 3 MB, the cost is ten (10) euros; for a file size of 3.1 MB to 10 MB, timestamping costs twenty (20) euros; for 10 MB to 50 MB, it costs thirty-five (35) euros; and for files of 50 MB to 2 GB, the cost of timestamping is set at seventy (70) euros. Additionally, the verification process costs one hundred (100) euros, before VAT (24%), regardless of file size.

Until today, there has not been a similar specific digital service available in Greece by a public provider. Of course, rightsholders would choose other ways in order to ensure that there is certain proof of the existence and priority of their work at a specific time. A common and safe, but maybe more expensive, practice, for example, is to submit the work to a notary public. Another, less certain but much cheaper, choice has also been for authors to send their works to their own address by certified return mail and then keep it enclosed in the envelop in case of a future dispute. The new online service, is not, of course, established in order to exclude any other form of proof of existence of a work, but it might offer a more efficient and not-too-expensive solution which also covers solely digital works as well as any other type of work that can be saved as a digital file.

Since it has only been a few weeks since the launch of the new platform, time and practice will show if OPI’s “electronic timestamp” will indeed prove to be a simple, practical but also effective way to verify the time of existence of a creator’s work and if it can help for further safeguarding intellectual property and related rights in Greece.

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