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When does German copyright apply?

The German Copyright Act provides protection for all works of authors with German citizenship, regardless of whether and where the works have been published. EU and EEA nationals are treated as equal to German citizens, regardless of their actual place of residence. Non-EU and non-EEA nationals enjoy protection only for their works published in the territory covered by the German Copyright Act. The exact scope of protection primarily depends on existing treaties. 
Geographically, the protection offered by German copyright law is limited to the German national territory. The so-called principle of territoriality applies.  

Example:
An Italian director and playwright lives in Germany for a year. As a freelance author, he writes a play that is performed by an independent cast. Five years later, a member of the cast uses an altered version of the play for a production in Germany without requesting permission. What rights does the Italian author have? 

Due to the principle of territoriality, the principle of national treatment applies to the Italian director, i.e. his play is protected under German copyright law. However, the protection under German copyright law only applies if the play has been used in Germany.  

In the above example, the cast member, who used an altered version of the play in Germany, violates the adaptation right of the director (§ 23 UrhG), as well as the right of communication to the public (§ 15 UrhG) in the form of a stage performance of a literary work (§ 19 Abs. 2 Alt. 2 UrhG). A violation of the right to prohibit distortion (§ 14 UrhG) could also be considered, depending on the extent to which the work was adapted.  

 

 

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