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Copyright law in Germany

Above all, copyright law protects the right to own creative creations. This wording is inclusive, but it should also be understood accurately. Anyone who creates a work in the sense of copyright law based on his intellectual creation enjoys the protection of this law. Authors can be, for example, photographers, (web) designers, copywriters, architects, programmers, authors, or journalists. This list is far from exhaustive. But it gives a first impression of who can be the author.

An overview of copyright law in Germany

  • Copyright protects works of literature, science, and art
  • Copyright arises on a work created based on personal intellectual creation.
  • Copyright protects the author and all co-authors from imitation of their creative creations.
  • Copyright also protects the copyright law, in particular, the right of the author to be published for the first time and the right to have the author recognized.
  • Copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death
  • Possible copyright violations come into consideration in particular in the event of a breach of personal rights or the violation of exploitation rights.
  • In the event of copyright infringement, the author has a variety of different claims against the infringer, e.g., for damages, too.
  • If copyrighted works are used without authorization, there is a high risk of warnings.

The subject matter of copyright

Copyright law is divided into three large workgroups. These are works of literature, science, and art. The law gives an example of which works fall under this category. The list of the law is not exhaustive. The protected works include, for example, language works, works of music or photographic works, and film work.

Origin of copyright

The emergence of copyright is linked to two conditions. The first requirement is that it is a work in the sense of copyright. The second requirement is that the work is a personal intellectual creation. According to the legislator’s definition, it is an own intellectual creation when the product represents something new and peculiar through its content or its form or the combination of content and structure. Both prerequisites must be met to establish a copyright. In contrast to many other industrial property rights, copyright law arises from a creative process and not from an entry in a register.

What protects copyright

Copyright protects the author from imitation of his creative creations. This copyright applies if several have jointly created a copyrighted work for each co-author. Copyright grants the author an exclusive right. This copyright means that the use of the work by third parties is fundamentally only possible with the consent of the author. However, the law does provide for some exceptions to this principle. For example, it is permissible to quote from a published work under certain conditions.

Copyright law also protects personal rights. For example, it is the sole responsibility of the author to decide whether and how his work should be published. The author also has the right to have his authorship recognized at work. He can determine whether the work should be given an author’s name and which name should be used.

Period of protection of copyright

Copyright exists for a very long time. It only expires 70 years after the author’s death. If the author dies, the rights of the author are exercised by his heirs. Only when this long protection period has expired will the author’s work become “in the public domain”. This copyright means that only then can anyone use the work without restrictions.

Possible copyright violations

In addition to a violation of the personal rights of the author, further acts of infringement can be considered. In particular, the breach of exploitation rights is a common problem. These exploitation rights are exclusive rights that are solely the property of the author. The following actions can lead to copyright infringement:

  • Duplication
  • Distribution
  • Exhibition
  • Lecture, performance, demonstration
  • Public accessibility
  • Broadcast
  • Playback through image and sound carriers
  • A replay of radio broadcasts and open access

Copyright claims in the event of copyright infringement

If the copyright is violated, the author is entitled to claims against the person who infringes his copyright. The author can, in particular, assert the following applications:

  • Omission
  • Compensation
  • Destruction
  • Recall
  • Surrender
  • Monetary compensation
  • Information

The danger of warning if copyrighted works are used

When using copyrighted works without the express consent of the author, there is a real risk of being warned. This copyright law applies in particular to the use of exchange platforms and file-sharing programs. Above all, the unauthorized use in the form of duplication and distribution, for example of pictures, films, and music tracks, carries a high risk of warnings. Some services are commissioned by authors such as photographers to find copies of their photographs. With the help of legal assistance, there may then be mass warnings.

Contact us with any questions about copyright

Are you affected by copyright infringement, or would you like to assert copyrights? Contact us and arrange an initial non-binding consultation. We gladly support you.

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