The material interests of the authors are extensively protected by the so-called exploitation rights of the author (§ 15 UrhG). The author is the sole bearer of the exploitation rights (exception: exhibition rights). If works have been created by various joint authors, the exploitation rights may only be exercised jointly. The right to use a work may be transferred to someone else by way of a license.
Exploitation rights have a different importance for the different disciplines. The following factors are important:
The right of reproduction, i.e. "the right to produce copies of the work, whether on a temporary or on a lasting basis and regardless of by which means of procedure or in which quantity they are made" (§ 16 UrhG Abs. 1); Examples are: art prints of a sculpture or design object; the cinematic recording of a contemporary dance choreography and reproduction on DVD, even without distribution.
The distribution right, i.e. "the right to offer the original or copies of the work to the public or to bring it to the market" (§ 17 Abs. 1 UrhG).
Distribution by the owner is permitted if the work was sold within the EU or EEA (§ 17 Abs. 2 UrhG). This regulation exists in order to not unduly impede the free movement of goods.
Exceptions apply to rentals and lending: Although the author cannot prohibit these actions, they are subject to royalties, i.e. the artist would receive a share of the profit from the rental/lending. This claim can be enforced only by a collecting society.
Example distribution right:
An artist sells his/her painting to a gallery in Antwerp and delivers it. The gallery now has the right to exhibit the painting and make it accessible to the public or even to resell it without having to obtain permission from the artist. The same would hold true for a gallery in other EU or EEA countries. If the work is sold to a gallery outside the EU or the EEA, however, for example in Canada, the gallery would need the permission of the artist.
The exhibition right, i.e. "the right to display in public the original or the copies of an unpublished artistic work or an unpublished photographic work" (i.e. a copyrighted photography)" (§ 18 UrhG). Due to its weak definition – namely, its restriction to unpublished works – this right is virtually of no relevance.
The right of recitation, performance, and presentation according to § 19 Abs. 2 Alt. 2 is affected whenever a work is interpreted and performed on stage before an audience in a theater. It also includes the right to make the performance publicly available beyond the space in which the personal performance takes place (e.g., live broadcast of a dance performance at the Berlin State Opera via a large screen at Bebelplatz).
The right of presentation is the right to make visual art or a film perceivable to the public by means of technical devices (§ 19 Abs. 4 UrhG). The work is presented to the public, which jointly perceives the performance by means of a film screening or a slide show. This definition is separate from the broadcasting right. Therefore, the right of presentation does not include the right to make the broadcast of such works perceivable to the public. This right is comprised by the right of communication of broadcasts in § 22 UrhG.
Example right of presentation:
A series of photographs of an exhibition/a theatrical evening was recorded and presented to an interested audience a few years later.
The right to make available to the public (§ 19a UrhG). Behind this somewhat difficult to understand concept hides the right to make a work accessible for retrieval by the public at a time and place of their choosing – typically by uploading it to the Internet.
Example right to make available to the public:
A concert recording work was uploaded as a video on the Internet via YouTube and is available for viewing to any member of the public at the time and place of their choice.
The right of broadcasting (§ 20 UrhG), i.e. the right to broadcast a work based on public access to make it publicly perceivable. Classic examples are television and radio broadcasts.
Example right of broadcasting:
The broadcasting of a ballet performance or a gallery visit on TV or the broadcast of a dramatic work as a radio play.
The right of communication by video or audio recordings (§ 21 UrhG) is the right to make recitations of a work perceivable to the public by means of video and audio recordings. This pertains to the right to determine whether the DVD of a dance performance may be shown to an audience on a screen. The distribution right is the only right affected by the purchase of a DVD – all other copyrights remain with the originator and must be acquired. This purchased DVD may thus not be used to perform any activities with copyright implications.
The adaptation and transformation right, pursuant to § 23 UrhG, is always affected when the intellectual and aesthetic content of a work is altered and requires separate consent by the originator. This is particularly true in the case of changes to works of fine art and abridging of works. In the performing arts, the distinction between adaptation and the freedom of interpretation of the actor/actress, dancer, or director is very problematic.
The resale right is important for works of fine art and photographs: For every resale of a work in which an art dealer or auctioneer is involved, artists are entitled to a percentage of the sale price (§ 26 UrhG). Unlike in the case of exploitation rights, an author cannot prohibit the use but receives compensation instead. The same applies to the right of rental and lending (§ 27 UrhG), which, in the area of visual arts, is important for art libraries, for example.