German Copyright Law Amended

Today was the official publication of a new amendment to the German Copyright Act. The amendment will enter into force in January 1st, 2008. After four long years of discussions, debates and negotiations, the final text is now available. A few highlights:

  • The rule, which annulled the transfer of rights concerning exploitation in not-yet-known methods, is repealed. It is replaced by an arrangement that allows authors to transfer such rights. They retain however a withdrawal window of three months from notice, during which the transfer can be revoked. Alternatively, the author can demand “special royalties” if the transferee actually relys on a contractual provision allowing exploitation in new methods that were not known at the time of the original transfer.
  • New exceptions in favor of libraries, archives and similar institutions are supposed to immune them from violating the “making-available” right for providing electronic reading stations within the institution premises for study and research. There’s a catch: The new exceptions will not survive an agreement stating otherwise…
  • Germany was a pioneer nation in introducing the first levy system already in the 60s. The system imposes levies on makers and traders in media and devices that can be used for private, noncommercial copying. Unlike in the US, such copying in Germany is permissible in some situations under a special statutory exception. The amendment dramatically alters the mechanism determining the tariffs paid to rightholders. No more statutory rates dictated by the state. The law now stipulates a framework for negotiations between collection societies and levy payers.
  • Despite much debate and public outcry, the download of works from suspicious sources that use presumably illegally-produced copies (a code name for P2P networks) remains explicitly outside the scope of the private copying exception. In other words, it is a prima facie violation of the reproduction right. Criminal penalties for this horrendous conduct remain possible, after the proposal to introduce a de minimis provision had died before the bill arrived the finish line.

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