Sun, Jul. 08, 2007

German Copyright Clarified

CK - Washington.   The diet in Berlin passed a set of amendments to the copyright statute which will now go to the states' chamber, Bundesrat. The so-called second basket, Zweiter Korb, is intended to clarify various provisions, such as fair use and corresponding compensation for copyright owners through charges on devices intended for the multiplication of content, use of copyrighted material by libraries, archives and museums as well as acquiescence in tools for digital rights management and sanctions for the unauthorized distribution of works through the Internet.

The Berlin Attorney General issued a press release, in German, to describe several components of the amending act, on July 5, 2007, as well as an 88-page PDF file with a recommendation from the legal committee of the diet to the diet, dated July 4, 2007. The file contains the bill, Zweites Gesetz zur Regelung des Urheberrechts in der Informationsgesellschaft.

In international transactions, the reporting requirements for imports into Germany of media and devices designed for the reproduction of copyrighted content become more important than ever. While the rules relieve freight forwarders from liability, manufacturers and importers face new or expanded obligations.

The legislative history explains other key issues relating to previously unknown technologies and their use. For instance, the committee explains its intent of relieving open access databases such as Wikipedia or collaborative works such as Linux from the writing requirements of the statute of frauds so that users will not need to obtain written permission from authors to use such material.

Another major issue is a new deadline to protect authors in the event that publishers plan to exploit contractually uncontemplated means for distributions which did not exist when the contract was made. Publishers will need to contact authors at their last known address, see p. 76. Under the new German copyright law, they may begin using such methods unless the author objects within three months.

Many provisions of the bill encountered public debate, and the ongoing discussions may lead to changes in the upper house. At present, the final contents of the amending statute are not entirely clear.


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