We are both recipients and producers of content on the Internet - we create and use and change content. But what is allowed and where are the limits in the use of others' work?
April 23rd is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. The day, proclaimed by UNESCO in 1995, celebrates all writers, readers and bookmakers. It is intended to point out the important role of books as a cultural asset, to inspire people to read and to inform them about the rights of authors. The basis for this is copyright, which according to Reclam's encyclopedia of the book "protects the intellectual property of an author in a work of literature, knowledge or art with regard to his personal rights or exploitation rights" (Estermann, M.: Urheberrecht. In: Rautenberg, Ursula (ed.): Reclam's Sachlexikon des Buches, 2nd and improved edition 2003, p. 508).
Copyright in Germany for beginners
A work does not have to be registered
or patented. The copyright comes automatically with the creation of the work. However, the law does not apply indefinitely: The copyright protection period applies during the lifetime of the
creator and 70 years after his death. Then the literary work becomes public domain. Everyone can use and distribute his contents free of charge. Another limit of copyright law is the right to
quote: in order to support, continue or prove one's own thoughts, everyone can use individual lines from an artist's work freely with reference to the source.
Both freelancers and employees earn their living by allowing others to use their work and, in return, receive a fee or salary. Authors or musicians assign these rights to a certain extent to publishers or record companies, employed authors like journalists or copywriters to their employer.
Copyright on the Internet
In the digital age, copyright concerns us all. As soon as we write our own blog post and use matching pictures from the Internet for it, as soon as we stream music or videos on YouTube or Twitch,
we are already in the middle of copyright. The former end user is now a “Prosumer”, recipient, producer and distributor of content all at
And we are constantly confronted with copyright law. After all, copyright protection does not only apply in the "analogue" world, but also to intellectual products that are distributed online. Anyone who wants to use copyrighted content on the Internet must first obtain the author's permission. However, since it is so easy to copy and paste texts or download pictures, videos and music on the Internet, the theft of data, whether intentional or ignorant, is common practice.
Free and open licenses
The situation is different for free or open licenses. Free licenses grant users the right to freely copy, distribute, sometimes modify and redistribute the work under the terms of the license
without the author's explicit permission. The most popular free licenses are the Creative Common licenses (CC licenses).
Artists make their music, texts or even computer programs freely accessible to everyone in order to promote the free exchange of knowledge and creativity. Existing works can be further developed or improved, new ones can be created. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for example, follows this approach. Young yet unknown artists in particular, are motivated to increase their name recognition through free licenses.
Copyright in the digital age
Copyright laws were not designed for the digital age. This is why the copyright law at EU level is to be modernized and the digital domestic market harmonized. To this end, the European Union plans to adapt the existing EU directives on copyright. Proposals by the Commission, such as the introduction of upload filters and an EU performance right, are the subject of heated debate. Critics speak of a threat to digital freedom of expression and art. What will change with the controversial reform remains to be seen - a vote on the new Copyright Directive is scheduled for April 23rd and 24th.
If you need a book tip, Lisa Frank is your go-to-girl. The qualified book and literary scholar has a natural interest in the development of print and digital content.