Official work

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Under a official work is understood in copyright a recessed from copyright protection works official nature (especially laws , authorities decrees , court decisions , as well as government statements and New Year message ) that would meet at the requirements for copyright protection. Official works represent a sub-category of the copyright barriers .

National legal situation


The German Copyright Act (UrhG) lacks a legal definition of the term official work . From the list in § 5 Paragraph 1 UrhG ("Laws, ordinances, official edicts and notices as well as decisions and officially drafted guidelines on decisions"), however, the scope of this paragraph is conclusively determined. The list is not a comprehensive list of all official works i. S. d. UrhG, as the wording "[d] as the same applies to other official works" in paragraph 2 shows.

While a publication is not required in paragraph 1 , paragraph 2 - unlike in the law valid until 1965 - only applies to publications. Paragraph 2 is interpreted very narrowly by case law. The prerequisite for the application of paragraph 2 is a specific public interest in dissemination. The public interest must outweigh the exploitation interest of the author of the work and require the broadest possible distribution free of copyrights. This requirement does not apply to official works without regulatory content such as official coats of arms , banknotes or postage stamps . The general interest that the general public has in every publication by an authority is insufficient. Such a special interest is given above all when it comes to averting dangers, since in such cases the general public needs to be informed quickly and comprehensively. It is also recognized that patent specifications are among the works within the meaning of paragraph 2. These are also not protected by copyright, but - as is the case with panorama freedom  - an indication of the source is required and the works may not be changed.

The public domain of official works is to be regarded as a limitation and therefore also applies to official databases that would otherwise be protected as database work or by database manufacturer law. For the interaction of the Copyright Act and the Information Further Use Act , this means: "If the works are in the public domain within the meaning of Section 5 UrhG, they may be used without further ado." Accordingly, there is a right to further use of the information if a case under Section 5 (1) UrhG is to be affirmed. This also applies, for example, to the legal information systems juris and Openjur .

Scan from the Hessian State Gazette 1983

If images protected by copyright are included in official notices or court decisions ( e.g. as image citations ), it is permissible to reproduce them in the context of the official works. Separate utilization, which only affects the picture, should not, however, be permitted. The Regional Court of Munich I came to a different view, subsuming the depiction of a postage stamp in the official gazette of the Federal Ministry for Post and Telecommunications under Section 5 (1) UrhG and thus as public domain. The prevailing opinion does not follow this view of the Munich Regional Court.

Internal administrative regulations, insofar as they have an external effect, are also among the non-protected official legal norms. On the other hand, topographic maps from state survey offices are not to be assessed as official works.

Foreign and supranational official works are treated according to German law ( territoriality and protection country principle ). Official versions of EU directives are therefore, for example, in the public domain under German law.


The regulation of the official work can be found in Section 7 of the Austrian Copyright Act .

For paragraph 2 see → Rights to geographic information: Austria


In Switzerland, official works are regulated in Art. 5 of the Swiss Copyright Act.

The decisions according to lit. c, court decisions are also counted.


Law No. 8/1996 on Copyright, Chapter III, Article 9 defines what is not protected by copyright:

a) ideile, teoriile, conceptele, descoperirile stiintifice, procedeele, metodele de functionare sau conceptele matematice ca atare si inventiile, continute intr-o opera, oricare ar fi modul de preluare, de scriere, de explicare sau de exprimare;
b) textele oficiale de natura politica, legislativa, administrativa, judiciara si traducerile oficiale ale acestora;
c) simbolurile oficiale ale statului, ale autoritatilor publice si ale organizatiilor, cum ar fi: stema, sigiliul, drapelul, emblema, blazonul, insigna, ecusonul si medalia;
d) mijloacele de plata;
e) stirile si informatiile de presa;
f) simplele fapte si date.

In German:

a) Ideas, theories, concepts, scientific discoveries, procedures, operating methods or mathematical concepts as such and inventions contained in a work, regardless of the type of transmission, writing or explanation and form of expression;
b) official texts in the field of politics, legislation, government, court and official translations thereof;
c) Official symbols of the state, public authorities and organizations, such as: coat of arms, seal, flag, emblem, coat of arms, badge, shield and medal;
d) means of payment;
e) news and information from the press;
f) simple facts and data.

Legal situation in other countries

Many freelance projects appreciate the fact that there is no copyright in the United States with respect to official work by federal administration employees. They are public domain in the US , but not outside of it. However, most US federal agencies refrain from asserting rights abroad.

In the Vatican State the Italian copyright law applies with the exception that the legal texts and official works published by the Holy See and the Vatican State are protected by copyright. This means that official works are not in the public domain here.

Unfree processing of official works

By inserting headings in legal texts or supplementing case law or editing or adding your own non-official guiding principles in judgments, these edits can enjoy copyright protection.

Protection of official databases

Private collections of laws etc. in printed form or on the Internet can be viewed as legally protected databases in the sense of EU- wide database protection law (implemented in Germany in §§ 87a ff. UrhG). The question of whether officially initiated databases (e.g. public registers) are subject to this database protection is controversial. Judgments of the Dresden Higher Regional Court and the Austrian Supreme Court have taken the view that this is the case due to the final regulation of Art. 9 of the EU Database Directive.

In the opinion of the German Federal Court of Justice, however, § 5 UrhG also applies to official databases. The BGH had submitted the question of whether this interpretation was compatible with the EU database directive to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, but withdrew this request in a letter dated May 20, 2008.

In any case, individual withdrawals of public domain legal texts from a protected database should not violate the legitimate interests of the database manufacturer, unless they are done systematically.

In Germany, the administrative departments of courts or ministries of justice often claim - for critics in contradiction to § 5 UrhG - a property right based mainly on database protection on the decision collections they present on the Internet, for which they want to exclude commercial use.

Private standards

Under pressure from the creators of standards such as DIN eV, Section 5 (3) UrhG was added in 2003 . The use of the initiative against the direct validity of private standards in the construction industry (IDIN) against the change in the legal situation was therefore unsuccessful.

See also

Web links


  • Martin von Albrecht: Official works and limitations of copyright for official purposes in fifteen European countries . 1992, ISBN 978-3-88259-911-4 .
  • Claudius Arnold: Official works in copyright law: On the constitutionality and analogous applicability of § 5 UrhG, 1994 . ISBN 3-7890-3528-9 .
  • Cornelie von Gierke: Official Databases? , in: Festschrift for Michael Loschelder . Ed. Willi Erdmann, u. a., Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-504-06218-7 , pp. 87-97.
  • Laura Maria Zentner: The exception to copyright protection for official works - On the scope of § 5 UrhG under German and European law , in: Journal for Intellectual Property , 2009, pp. 94-120.

Individual evidence

  1. Marquardt, in: Wandtke / Bullinger, 3rd ed., 2009, § 5 UrhG, Rn. 5; Dreier, in Dreier / Schulze, 4th edition 2013, § 5 Rn. 5.
  2. ^ BGH, judgment of July 20, 2006 , Az. I ZR 185/03, full text.
  3. ↑ Reasons for the IWG, BT-Drucks. 16/2453 , p. 11
  4. VGH Baden-Württemberg, judgment of May 7, 2013 - 10 S 281/12 para. 41
  5. cf. Wolfgang Maaßen: image quotations in court decisions and legal publications , in: ZUM 2003, pp. 830–842.
  6. ^ LG Munich I, judgment of March 10, 1987 , Az. 21 S 20861/86, brief information = GRUR 1987, 36.
  7. cf. LG Berlin, judgment of March 27, 2012 , Az. 15 O 377/11, full text; Fromm / Nordemann: Copyright , 9th edition, 5, marginal no. 4; Schricker GRUR 1991, 645, 652 f .; Schack: Copyright and Copyright Contract Law , 4th Edition, Rn. 517; Wandtke / Bullinger: Copyright , 3rd edition, § 5, marginal no. 20; Möhring / Nicolini / Gass: Copyright Act , 2nd edition, § 5 Rn. 14; Schmid / Wirth: Copyright Law Handkommentar , § 5 Rn. 4; Loewenheim: Handbook of Copyright , § 31 Rn. 10 mwN; a. A. Rehbinder: Copyright and Publishing Law , 9th edition, p. 207, which, however, is also against it for special stamps.
  8. ^ Shepherd ( Memento of July 7, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  9. OLG Stuttgart, judgment of January 16, 2008 , Az. 4 U 64/07, full text.
  10. SR 231.1 Art. 5 Unprotected works (Federal Law on Copyright and Related Rights)
  11. Legea dreptului de author: Legi internet
  12. Law No. XII on Copyright of January 12, 1960, Art. 2.
  13. ^ Möhring / Schulze / Ulmer / Zweigert / W. Schulz , sources of copyright, Vatikanstaat, 1975, p. 4.
  14. ^ BGH, decision of September 28, 2006 , Az. I ZR 261/03, full text. - "Saxon Tender Service".
  15. Laura Maria Zentner: The exception to copyright protection for official works . in: Zeitschrift für Intellectual Property / Intellectual Property Journal . Volume 1, 2009, p. 119.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 1.1 MB)@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  16. Order of the Fourth Chamber of the European Court of Justice of June 25, 2008 (PDF)