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
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
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.)
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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