During a long period of historical growth, we've developed a certain practice of collective exercise of rights. The nature of this practice varies depending on the type of work. E.g. For exercising the rights of musical, visual arts and audiovisual works' authors, organisations have generally been created. These organisations are called either collecting societies, authors' societies or collective management organisations. Regardless of the name, they all have the same purpose and are not created as companies, but mainly in the form of non-profit organisations. Habitually there's only one organizations per field in each country. But there's still some exceptions, for example the USA, where there is 4 organizations work in the music field alone, which all represent different authors of music. A radio station based in the USA has to sign a contract with all four of the societies, because the radio station doesn't broadcast only the works of one society's members, but also the musical works, which authors are a part of the other three societies. So actually it is in the better interests of both authors and users to have one organisation operating per field. Especially in Estonia where, considering the small size of the market, it's been tried to follow the worldwidely accepted custom of one organization for practical reasons.
EAÜ has signed contracts with most of the collective management organizations aka sister societies based in other countries. Under these agreements, EAÜ has the right to authorize the use of the works of all members of these sister societies and to collect royalties for them in the territory of the Republic of Estonia (and, in certain cases, from the rest of the world). Correspondingly, the members of the EAÜ receive royalties for the use of their works abroad through said sister societies. For example, in Finland the rights of EAÜ's members' musical works are carried out by TOESTO and in Latvia, by AKKA-LAA.
Sister societies who have signed a contract with EAÜ can be divided into three categories by the types of works:
- societies handling musical works;
- societies handling visual art works;
- societies handling audiovisual works.
In reality there are some authors who are not members of EAÜ nor are they members of a sister society. These authors exercise their copyright by themselves. In such a case, the person wishing to use the work must find the authors or their representatives and make an agreement about the use of the work with them individually.