Sociology Index

German Copyright Law

German copyright law or Deutsches Urheberrecht is similar to "droit d'auteur". Germany has implemented the EU Copyright Directive. German copyright law had used 70 years after the death of the author, and as the longest term of any member, was chosen. In 1501, the first recorded copyright privilege in Germany was issued  by the Aulic Council to an association entitled the Sodalitas Rhenana Celtica, for the publication of an edition of the dramas of Hroswitha of Gandersheim.

In 1512, an Imperial privilege was issued to the historiographer John Stadius which was the first European privilege made to cover more than a single work, or undertaking to protect books not yet published. In 1794, the Prussian Parliament enacted a legislation which was accepted by most states of Germany. Under this legislation all German authors, and foreign authors whose works were represented by publishers taking part in the book fairs in Frankfort and Leipzig, were to be protected throughout the states of Germany against unauthorized reprints. There is no corporate copyright in Germany and the fundamental rights cannot be transferred except by heritage.

GEMA represents the usage rights stemming from authors' rights for the musical works of those composers, lyricists, and publishers who are members in the organization. It is the only such institution in Germany and a member of BIEM and CISAC. Similar collecting societies include the Society of authors, composers and music publishers in Austria and SUISA in Switzerland.

The purpose of GEMA is to collect royalty fees from the organisers of events where music protected by this organization is played as well as media manufacturers, publishers, and broadcasting stations. GEMA collected 850 million euros in copyright fees in 2008. Disbursements go largely to the full members, whose repertoire represents the lion's share of the listed works.

Court decisions have set the barrier very low for fine art and protection is granted even for minimal creativity, but there are extremely high standards for applied art to be reached for it to achieve copyright protection. This is so because design patents and typeface patents are seen as lex specialis for applied art such that the threshold of originality must not be assumed low for them.

There is a special emphasis on the relation between the work and its actual author. The right is perceived as an aspect of the author's general personality right and as a general rule is therefore inalienable. This also means that there is no corporate copyright in Germany and the fundamental rights cannot be transferred except by inheritance.

Employment agreements are frequently construed as granting the employer an exclusive licence to any works created by the employee within the scope of their obligations. For computer software, the copyright act expressly provides that all economic usage rights "belong" to the employer.