Copyright Infringement Claims,
Remedies, and Defences
in Germany


German Intellectual Property Lawyers

Copyright Infringement Claims, Remedies, and Defences in Germany

German Intellectual Property Lawyers

Copyright infringement is a serious legal issue that can have significant consequences for individuals and businesses. In Germany, copyright infringement claims are governed by the Copyright Act, which outlines the legal framework for protecting and enforcing copyright ownership.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our copyright lawyers advise private and business clients on copyright infringement matters in Germany. Receive leading advice as a claimant or as someone who has been accused of copyright infringement. By working with our professionals, you can be assured that you will have our full-service legal support.

If you require our expert legal counsel, please do not hesitate to contact our office directly.

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Copyright Infringement under German Law

Copyright infringement involves using the author’s work without their permission. Those who create creative works are the ones who should benefit from them, and the aim of copyright infringement law is to protect the creator’s rights to their work and provide them with financial remuneration for their work.

The German Copyright Act (UrhG) provides specific rights regarding copyright infringement:

  • Reproduction right (§ 16 UrhG),
  • Right of distribution (§ 17 UrhG),
  • Exhibition right (§ 18 UrhG),
  • Right of performance, presentation and exhibition (§ 19 UrhG),
  • Right to make available to the public (§ 19a UrhG),
  • Broadcasting right (§ 20 UrhG),
  • Right of reproduction by means of audio or video carriers (§ 21 UrhG),
  • Right of communication by radio broadcasting and making available to the public (§ 22  UrhG).

Under German law, such copyright infringements can be deemed to be criminal acts, which are punishable by fines or up to three years imprisonment.

It should be noted that committing copyright infringement on a commercial basis can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years. It should also be considered that attempting to infringe copyright can also be punishable.

It should also be considered that German copyright law differs to that of other jurisdictions, as in Germany, copyrights are also considered to be moral rights of the creator. Such rights cannot be transferred or waived.

Our lawyers advise clients regarding their options in copyright infringement cases. Working with you, our team draws up cease-and-desist letters, provides official warnings and represents clients in court, if the case goes that far.

Our team also assists authors and creators to protect their copyrights and trademarks. We work with clients in all industries and ensure that they are aware of the copyright requirements to different creations, including software, illustrations of a scientific or technical nature and music and film.

The Limitations of Copyright Infringement Claims

Copyright protections do not extend to protect copyright holders in all situations, and there some limits to it. Although, German copyright law does not implement a generalised “fair use” doctrine, specific examples of such limitations are listed in the Copyright Act. The limitations include:

  • Administration of justice and public security, § 45 UrhG,
  • Persons with disabilities, § 45a UrhG: “It is permitted to reproduce a work for non-commercial purposes for and to distribute it exclusively to persons whose access to the work is, owing to a disability, not possible or is made considerably more difficult by the already available means of sensual perception, if such reproduction is necessary to facilitate access.”
  • Persons with visual impairments, § 45b UrhG,
  • Use permitted by law and contractually authorised use, § 45d UrhG,
  • School broadcasts, § 47 UrhG: “Schools and teacher training and further training institutions may make individual copies of works to be used as part of a school broadcast by transferring the works to video or audio recording mediums. The same applies to youth welfare institutions and federal state image archives or comparable institutions under public ownership.”
  • Public speeches, § 48 UrhG,
  • Reporting on current events, § 50 UrhG: For the purposes of reporting on current events by broadcasting or similar technical means in newspapers, periodicals and other printed matter or other data carriers which are mainly devoted to current events, as well as on film, it is permitted to reproduce, distribute and communicate to the public works which become perceivable in the course of these events, to the extent justified by the purpose of the report.
  • Quotation, § 51 UrhG: “It is permitted to reproduce, distribute and communicate to the public a published work for the purpose of quotation insofar as such use is justified to that extent by the particular purpose.”
  • Caricature, § 51a UrhG.

If you have been accused of copyright infringement and believe that your situation fits into one of the above categories, our lawyers will examine your case.

Similarly, if someone has made use of your creation, and has claimed that they can do so based on the limitations of copyright, our lawyers will closely analyse the situation, and determine what actions you can take.

Remedies and Actions against Copyright Infringement

Several steps can be taken when facing a situation where someone has infringed your copyright. Our lawyers will analyse your particular situation and, with you, determine how best to meet the matter. We support our clients with all the following steps.

An entitlement enquiry can be issued as a starting point, whereby the potential copyright infringer is informed that they may have breached copyright law. This step can be taken before issuing warning letters and allows the copyright infringer to take action. Such a step can help prevent the case from becoming a legal action.

The claimant can issue a warning letter if the infringer has not made any changes. Of course, consulting with legal experts before taking this step is recommended to ensure your situation is secure. A warning letter is more substantial than the entitlement enquiry as it is more precise regarding taking judicial action. Such judicial action can result in seeking compensation and other remedies.