Copyright Act (Germany)

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Basic data
Title: Copyright and Related Rights Act
Short title: Copyright Act
Abbreviation: UrhG
Type: Federal law
Scope: Federal Republic of Germany             
Legal matter: Intellectual property law
References : 440-1
Issued on: September 9, 1965
( BGBl. I p. 1273 )
Entry into force on: January 1, 1966
Last change by: Art. 1 G of November 28, 2018
( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2014 )
Effective date of the
last change:
predominantly January 1, 2019
(Art. 2 G of November 28, 2018)
GESTA : C033
Weblink: Text of the law
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

The German Copyright Act - UrhG replaced the law on copyright in works of literature and music (LUG) and largely replaced the law on copyright in works of visual arts and photography (KUG). The copyright law is the legal basis for German copyright law and related ancillary copyrights .

Legal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

Copyright reform

The changes to German copyright law are the result of an EC directive from 2001 on copyright in the information society , which aims to standardize copyright law in European partner countries. In September 2003, a large part of the new copyright law came into force.

First basket

The changes to the first basket include the introduction of a new type of exploitation, namely making it publicly available (publications on the Internet). With the repeal of Section 31 (4) UrhG , authors can now also grant usage rights for not yet known types of usage.

Second basket

Since April 2004, the Federal Ministry of Justice in Germany has been planning another copyright reform (“Second Basket”), which further restricts the rights of users and strengthens those of authors and rights holders beyond the mandatory parts of the EU Copyright Directive.

On July 5, 2007, the Bundestag passed the second law regulating copyright in the information society . Following the approval of the Federal Council on September 21 and publication in the Federal Law Gazette on October 26, the law came into force on January 1, 2008 ( Federal Law Gazette 2007 I p. 2513 ).

  1. Copyright in science and research
    1. Section 52a allows small parts of a work or individual journal articles to be made accessible for teaching purposes and for a certain, limited group of people, usually the course participants, even without the consent of the owner of the exploitation rights. This regulation now applies without any time restriction. Initially, it was limited to the end of 2006. The deadline was extended to December 31, 2008 by Art. 1 No. 2 of the “Fifth Act to Change Copyright” of November 10, 2006, and by Art. 1 of the “Sixth Act to Change Copyright” of December 7, 2008 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2349 ) until December 31, 2012 and through the effect of the “Seventh Act to Amend the Copyright Act” from December 14, 2012 until December 31, 2014 ( Section 137k ). Section 137k was repealed with effect from December 13, 2014 ( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1974 ).
    2. The new § 52b regulates how public and academic libraries deal with electronically available works. Digital works may only be reproduced at electronic reading areas within the respective libraries. Use of this content from outside, even from other buildings of the same university, is prohibited.
    3. The newly inserted § 53a regulates the remote dispatch of articles by services like Subito . In contrast to the demands of the publishers, the legislature has not generally prohibited the remote dispatch of articles, but has considerably restricted it. Libraries are only allowed to send magazine articles if the publishers do not have a corresponding online offer, and that only as a graphic file, i.e. without the option of searching through the texts.
  2. Private copy : In the new § 53 , the exchange of copyrighted content via peer-to-peer networks was prohibited, unless the author makes it available to the general public (e.g. public domain , LFFI, GPL-SFA, GPL ). The Federal Government also refrains fromenforcingprivate copying against technical protective measures ( DRM ), although this would be possible to a certain extent according to Article 6, Section 4 of the EU Copyright Directive. However, the Federal Government does not follow the positions of the music and film industry to limit the right to private copying to analog copies ( IFPI ) or to ban them altogether for films one year after their theatrical release, as requested by the film industry. This means that private copies of non-copy-protected works are still allowed, even in digital form. The prohibition on copying an obviously illegally produced template was extended on January 1, 2008 to include templates that were obviously illegally offered for download online. The prohibition given by EU law to crack copy protection remains.
  3. Lump-sum remuneration: The amount of the lump-sum remuneration to be paid to the authors for using the private copying limit and other permitted uses is regulated in Section 54a . In section 1 is u. a. stipulated that the level of remuneration also depends on how often DRM mechanisms are used. If DRM is to be used across the board, flat-rate charges on devices and storage media can no longer be justified and would then be dropped. Justice Minister Zypries speaks of a system of communicating tubes: If fewer works with DRM are published, the levies are higher, in many works with DRM they are lower and could ultimately be omitted entirely.
  4. Penalties: It was originally planned to insert a so-called minor clause in Section 106 , which states that anyone who forbidden copies of copyrighted works only in small numbers and exclusively for their own private use will not be penalized. This should prevent a “criminalization of schoolyards”. It is not opportune to pursue copyright violations if they are in the minor area and only serve private purposes. This could be detrimental to the overall acceptance of copyright law. In its cabinet decision of March 22, 2006, however, the federal government deleted this trivial clause. Accordingly, since then, all private individuals who use P2P networks (file sharing platforms) have theoretically had to expect up to three years in prison.

Third basket

The Federal Ministry of Justice started the first hearings on the third basket in summer 2010. The 'Department for Copyright and Publishing Law' of the Federal Ministry of Justice is responsible. The content discussed includes:

  1. Private copying : The right to private copying is to be restricted in such a way that copies are only permitted from the (purchased) original. A ban on the production of private copies by third parties is also to be added.
  2. Protection of the press publisher (implemented with effect from August 1, 2013): The manufacturer of a press product has exclusive rights, analogous to the sound carrier and film manufacturer, “unless it concerns individual words or the smallest text excerpts”. It expires one year after publication. The aim is to make the commercial use of press products by providers of search engines or services that prepare the content accordingly (all others can use the limitation clause § 87g Paragraph 4 UrhG), subject to license.
  3. Open Access (partially implemented with effect from January 1, 2014): A secondary exploitation right for authors of scientific contributions, so-called Open Access exploitation models, was discussed. However, the statutory possibility of secondary exploitation only affects mainly publicly financed articles published in a periodically published collection after one year and only insofar as the exclusive granting of rights to the publisher or editor does not serve a commercial purpose ( Section 38 (4) UrhG).
  4. Public reproduction : The restriction “only against payment of an entrance fee” is to be removed from the so-called “pub law” ( Section 87 (1) No. 3 UrhG) in order to make public viewing accessible free of charge subject to license.
  5. Orphan works (implemented with effect from January 1, 2014): the use of works whose author cannot be determined or can only be determined with difficulty has been simplified ( § 61 ff. UrhG).

Judgment on the copyright reform

The planned regulations were judged controversially by the various interest groups.

  • The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels criticizes the legal possibility of making more digital copies of a work available at the same time at electronic reading stations than the library in question has in its inventory, as a burden for scientific publishers (Börsenblatt newsletter January 26, 2006). That would also reduce the authors' income.
  • The Action Alliance Copyright for Education and Science counters this by stating that the draft favors authors and exploiters and restricts people's ability to use knowledge too much. It takes the position that the free use of knowledge and information is essential for education and science and should have priority over economic interests. If only the publishers themselves , but not other actors, were allowed to sell their documents online, this would prevent the development of modern online libraries.
  • The advocacy group of the phonographic industry IFPI calls for the general abolition of a right to private copying and a tightening of the penalties for copyright violations.
  • In particular, the restrictions on private copying, but also the criminalization of the citizen, are criticized by the consumer-oriented press such as Heise-Verlag. The federal government is accused of having given in to pressure from the media industry at the expense of citizens. Critics accuse the draft of primarily representing the marketing interests of the recycling and equipment industry, but not those of the authors.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Directive 2001/29 / EC of the European Parliament and the Council of May 22, 2001 on the harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (PDF; 160 kB)
  2. A synoptic comparison of the new and old legal situation was created by the University of Bayreuth : Graduate College "Intellectual Property and Public Domain"
  3. ( Memento from January 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. "Obviously illegal" also applies to making available to the public, see the reason for the change in printed matter 257/06, p. 55.
  5.  ( 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.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  6. Law of 7 May 2013 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 1161 )
  7. a b Act of October 1, 2013 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 3728 )
  8. cf. Action alliance “Copyright for Education and Science”: press release 1/06, January 24, 2006, and action alliance “Copyright for Education and Science”: press release 3/06, February 1, 2006,
  9. Jens Ihlenfeld: Music industry calls for the abolition of private copies. In: November 8, 2006, accessed February 28, 2015 .
  10. Copyright - Look into the mountains with the stove pipe. In: May 17, 2010, accessed February 28, 2015 .