Sat, Sep. 27, 2003

2003 Amendment to German Copyright Law Effective

TD - Heidelberg.   The German Parliament enacted a statute to address copyright law in the information society--Gesetz zur Regelung des Urheberrechts in der Informationsgesellschaft--as an amendment to the German Copyright Statute. Beyond the revisions of the copyright law, the statute adjusts the Urheberrechtswahrnehmungsgesetz and the Unterlassungsklagengesetz. Both statutes lack a direct counterpart in the United States. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Strafprozessordnung) required a few modifications. The 2003 amendment is now effective and available for download.

Three changes warrant particular attention. The law places signifcant emphasis on restrictions on copies made of works protected by copyright, such as downloads of music and carbon copies of printed works. This change is somewhat similar to the controversial American Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998.

a) §53: This section restricts copies in the form of digital data or regular hard copies from digital data or regular hard copies from books if the source from which the copies are made is obviously unlawful. The section is intended to prevent pirated copies, principally in the field of music in the MP3 format downloaded from the internet. An unlawful source is any origin of data for which the creator has not granted a use to replay such data. In essence, this section does not modify existing Copyright law but it clarifies that only authorized dulications are lawful.

b) §95a-d: The legislator added a new regime which prohibites the manipulation or evasion of mechanisms designed to protect against unauthorized copies. The production of copies of any regularly purchased music compact disk for oneself is prohibited if the CD contains an anti-copy feature. Computer programs do not fall under this regime. §69a provides that a single backup copy may be made of software. In addition, the law renders illegal the trade of programs designed to manipulate anti-copy features; even guidance or advice on such defeating measures would be improper.

c) The remedies in §108 b include the criminal prosecution of violations. The statutes clarifies, however, that a criminal offense committed solely for personal use falls outside of the criminal area. In other words, no go to jail card for the CD ripper who assembles his own CD for the car or party. But such a copy would still expose the offender to a claim for damages under §97 of the civil law regime.

The revisions to the Copyright Act do not carry a retroactive effect. They do not control copies made in the past. In the future, CD covers will require a statement advising customers whether the data is copy protected or not, so that the customers understand the legal requirements attached to a purchase.

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