By a judgement of 11 August 2011, which has now been published, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe has clarified that news texts are, in principle, also protected by copyright. The action had been brought by a news agency against an Internet magazine, as the defendant had published on its website various news reports in an unchanged manner. The defendant had correctly stated the source in that respect.
On the one hand, the defendant had assumed that it could invoke the "news privilege" under § 49, section 2 German Copyrights Act, according to which "mixed news of a factual nature", as well as "daily news" may be published without any limitations. That assumption only applies, however, if the text is limited to the mere communication of news and does not contain any additional explanatory or instructive comments, views or additions. The latter will be deemed to be the case if the contribution contains independent assessments (such as "dramatic emergency landing") or background information.
According to the court, news texts, on the other hand, are protected by copyright. The court argued as follows: Even if the required objectivity and restraint in relation to news texts results in the linguistic presentation typically lacking individuality, any such texts are copyrightable, as the numerous possibilities of presenting a subject necessarily result in an individual character of the respective text. This applies also to pure reporting.
Practical tip: When adopting news texts for television programmes, websites or other media formats, one should always take the trouble to reword them in order to avoid rights to an injunction of news agencies and other publishers of news. The news privilege under copyright law should not be relied on. (Dr. Karolin Nelles, LL.M.)
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