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The Guide

International context

What about rights holders in an international context?

Numerous international treaties have created a strong convergence of legal situations, resulting in the contracting states treating the protection of works of citizens of other contracting states as equal to the protection of works created by their own citizens (for example, the revised Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works).

In terms of copyright, the law of the country whose territory is affected applies. This is referred to as the territoriality principle. This principle also applies in the EU, although the EU is striving for ever-greater harmonisation of the national legal positions through various Directives (see the information provided by the European Commission).

To whom does the German Copyright Act apply?

The German Copyright Act offers authors with German citizenship protection for all of their works, regardless of whether and where the works have been published. There is no need to register the works in order for this protection to apply.

Nationals of EU and EEA countries are treated the same as German nationals, regardless of their actual place of residence, i.e. any of their works that are used in Germany are protected under the German Copyright Act (principle of equal treatment with the nationals of the host state).

Nationals of countries outside the EU and the EEA generally enjoy protection in Germany only for those of their works that are published within the territorial scope of the German Copyright Act. In this context, the exact scope of protection depends primarily on the treaties in place.

These persons enjoy the same protection with regard to their moral rights (Section 121 in conjunction with Sections 12-14 German Copyright Act). This also applies accordingly to ancillary copyrights. In addition, however, the protection of their works is subject to certain conditions – for example, a work must either be published within the territorial scope of the German Copyright Act within 30 days of its publication abroad (Section 121 (1) (1) German Copyright Act) or treaties governing the reciprocal protection of authors must be in place.

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