How many copyright laws are there


And what does all this have to do with me? Valie Djordjevic breaks copyright down on her own life - from copyright, private copying, streaming and remixing.

Image:, cc by-nc-nd / 2.0 / de (& copy Image: dieSach, cc by-nc-nd / 2.0 / de)

Knowledge and information are at the center of the much touted information society. Copyright exists so that the producers, administrators and creators of this information as well as the users and consumers can get their rights. On the one hand it regulates the handling of "intangible goods", on the other hand it creates the basis for authors to benefit financially from their works.

In the last ten years, copyright has become more and more important: for authors, musicians, filmmakers - that is, the creative ones - and for music fans, book buyers or moviegoers who read, listen to, watch or copy copyrighted works. One of the most important reasons for this is that home computers have become an everyday item since the early 1990s. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 81 percent of households in Germany had a computer at home in 2012, of which over 90 percent had broadband internet access.

In contrast to analog content - books, records, video cassettes - digital content can be copied as often as required without loss. Publishers, record companies, film distributors - the so-called exploitation industry - see this as the reason why their sales have steadily declined after a high in the mid-1990s. They claim that their users' copying and swapping activities are to blame.

The content providers are primarily targeting downloads and streaming from illegal sources, either via file sharing software such as Bittorrent or filehosters such as Rapidshare and similar, where films, music, software or e-books can be found and downloaded. But they also see private CD burning as problematic. In addition, once digital data is on the computer, it can not only be copied, but also edited, thus forming the raw material for new works. Together with networking in the global Internet, this creates a new form of creativity that makes the production of works, such as music and film, easier and accessible to more people.

In addition, the Internet offers a new channel for the dissemination of works that is very easy to use. It is therefore becoming more important to know what one can do with creative works - and not only as a user, but also as an author, since it is much easier than before to go public with one's creations.

How does copyright work?

Copyright protects "works of literature, science and art" - these include literature, music, dance and theater, visual arts, architecture, photography, film, but also computer programs, maps, plans and diagrams. Works have to achieve a certain originality in order to be protected. But since the requirements are very low, most of the creative designs are protected by copyright. The result is that the author can decide whether and how to publish or perform his work; he or she may determine how the work is copied, distributed, broadcast, put online or otherwise publicly reproduced. To enjoy copyright protection, an idea must first be poured into a mold. That means that Harry Potter is protected as a book, but not the idea that a boy suddenly learns that he can do magic and goes to a magic school.

An idea only becomes a protected work when it is put into a concrete form, i.e. a text is formulated, a film is made and so on. It is not necessary to register your work anywhere. Copyright protection occurs automatically without the author having to do anything.

Copyright or copyright

In everyday language, the term "copyright" is often used synonymously with "copyright". From a legal point of view, that's wrong. Copyright is the designation for the legal rules for the protection of the author in the Anglo-American area. The German copyright and the Anglo-American copyright differ in many respects.

Basically, German copyright, as the name suggests, focuses on the author, while copyright is more about exploitation rights. Copyright takes greater account of commercial interests, i.e. those of publishers, while copyright is also a personal right that is intended to protect the author's ideal interests in his work.

Until 1989 it was necessary in the USA to have his work entered in a central register in order to be able to perceive the "copyright". In addition, the copyright symbol © with the year and name had to be attached. In 1989 the United States joined the Bern Convention, an international copyright treaty. Since then, this registration is no longer necessary, just as it is in Germany. The copyright symbol no longer has any legal meaning. Nevertheless, it is also often used in this country to indicate that the work with it is protected by copyright and who owns the rights to it. In principle, copyright works according to the "principle of territoriality". This means that the respective national law applies in every country - in Germany the local copyright law. In times of the Internet, this is often problematic - when data and information can be requested from all over the world, it is difficult to pay attention to national and legal borders.

Providers of internet services in particular cannot take into account all of the world's jurisprudence. However, national laws are not completely independent of one another: there are international agreements and organizations that coordinate intellectual property laws around the world. The most important is the WIPO - the World Intellectual Property Organization. There the member states negotiate how copyright will develop internationally. What does it all mean in practice?

Private copy

The legislature allows copies of works protected by copyright to be made for private purposes for private purposes. This exception is also called the "private copy barrier". There are many other barriers in copyright law, for example for teaching purposes, libraries, or daily reporting. Otherwise, many everyday activities would be difficult to do. You couldn't copy a page from a book without first asking the author, or burn a song onto a CD without getting the band's permission.

The private copy exception allows you to make copies for yourself and for friends and family members. Often you hear that you are not allowed to make more than seven private copies. The Federal Court of Justice once named this number in a judgment. However, it is not a rigid limit, but can only be understood as a rough guide - no number is given in the law itself.

Private copies can only be made if the original, i.e. the CD or DVD, is not copy-protected, because such "technical measures" - as the law calls copy protection - are protected against circumvention under the Copyright Act. This has consequences for private use: For example, there are hardly any films on DVD anymore without copy protection. Copying DVDs is therefore almost always prohibited.

The situation is different with computer programs and games. According to the law, you can only make a backup copy of these. If you pass on a game or a program - for example, sell it or give it away - then you either have to give the backup copy with you or destroy it. However, there are programs that are released under licenses that expressly allow distribution. These are, for example, open source, shareware or freeware programs that explicitly permit in their license conditions that they can be copied and passed on (more on this in the dossier text Licenses).

File sharing, file hosting and streaming sites

Illegal downloads are a controversial issue. If you believe the film and music industry, they (together with CD burning) are responsible for the fact that sales of sound carriers have fallen by almost half compared to the 1990s. Other observers see various reasons for the decline in sales - bad business decisions, changed interests of consumers, changed usage habits and the like. With the last major reform of copyright law - the "second basket", which came into force at the beginning of 2008 (see dossier text Basis "Reforms of copyright law in the information society") - downloading files is not permitted if the source is "obviously illegal "was put online. It is clear, however, that it is not always easy to decide whether a song has been illegally posted online or not: after all, many bands themselves offer MP3 files for download and some of their songs are also posted on file sharing sites. In the case of films, this may be more obvious - a film that has just been shown in the cinema will in most cases not legally be able to be offered on a swap exchange or on a streaming host. (More about streaming and filehosting can be found in the dossier texts "Streams between Youtube and" and "Filesharing and Filehoster")

When you become the author yourself

Not only has it become easier to copy music since computers have been in (almost) every household. Your own creativity can also be lived out in a completely different way: You can produce music yourself, publish texts and build websites, edit your photos and videos, put them online and much more. It's very easy to use other people's work - quickly post a video of your favorite band on Facebook or spice up your travelogue on the blog with photos from professional photographers. But you have to be careful. As already explained, the works - pictures, texts, music and so on - are the intellectual property of the respective creator and someone else is only allowed to put them online if he or she has explicit permission to do so. Otherwise you are committing a copyright infringement. Exceptions for such cases usually only exist for private use. And online offers are generally not private within the meaning of the law, but take place in public. Facebook and social networks should be viewed as public, because even if you have made the privacy settings very restrictive, it is difficult to control what friends do with the photo.

The legal questions here are complex: Is it illegal to post YouTube videos on your own page using the embed function? How do I know that something is obviously illegal on the Internet? Because then I am not allowed to redistribute it. Then who is responsible for the copyright infringement? The one who uploaded the video to Youtube or the one who shared it? These questions are decided in practice - and not always to everyone's satisfaction. There are only a few exceptions when you can use third-party works under German copyright law. One of them is the quote. If you want to deal scientifically or journalistically with a work, you can quote from it. However, you have to adhere to a few rules: Provide evidence of who and where the quotation comes from, do not quote more than necessary, and above all deal with the quoted in your own work. Adding something simply for illustration, for embellishment, is not permitted.

So-called "free uses" are also possible. You are inspired by another work, but the result differs so much from the original that it is a completely new, own work. With both uses and quotations, it is important that you create something of your own and use the original material only for support.

It becomes problematic with music. In the last twenty years a practice has developed that creates new music from the material of previous artists: sampling. A sample is a short excerpt from an existing piece of music that is placed in a new context. In theory one could argue that this is a music quote, but in practice it is almost never allowed to use samples without permission - a so-called license - from the original composers and musicians (or their rights holders). In the case of commercial pop music, this can be expensive and, above all, time-consuming, depending on the intended use.

The topic of the use of foreign material is dealt with in more detail in the dossier text "Mashups, Remixes, Samples". However, there is also music that is under "free licenses". With them the author makes his work available to the general public. He or she can fall back on different models and choose different degrees of approval. There is more about this in the dossier text Licenses.