Copyright Contract in Germany

Copyright Contract in Germany in Europe

In light of the difficulty of many authors to derive a decent income from the exploitation of
their works, policy makers in the field of copyright may decide to intervene and recalibrate
the power relations between authors and publishers. Seeking to strengthen the bargaining
power of authors, the Dutch legislator, for instance, adopted a specific Copyright Contract Act in July 2015.

As in the Netherlands, the German law maker conferred upon authors a right to fair remuneration (Dietz (2005), 20; Schricker (2002), 797; Schack (2002), 853). By virtue of the German Copyright Contract Act, authors have the right to demand the modification of a contract about a work’s exploitation that fails to offer a fair remuneration for the grant of the entitlement to exploit a work (§ 32(1) of the German Copyright Act). In negotiations of a representative association of authors with an individual exploiter, or an association of exploiters, it is possible to establish “common remuneration rules” that are to be deemed fair by virtue of the law (§§ 32(2) and 36 of the German Copyright Act).

For cases in which no common remuneration rules are available, the German legislation indicates that a remuneration can be considered fair when it complies with the remuneration which, according to the customary practices in the sector concerned, an author could reasonably expect in light of the scope and reach of the granted right, the duration and time of the use, and other circumstances relevant to the individual case (§ 32(2) of the German Copyright Act).

Although the German Copyright Contract Act has now been in effect for more than 10 years,
it has not led to a general improvement of the income situation of authors. See the recent analyses by Maas 2016, 209, and Peifer 2015, 1-2; as well as earlier comments by Schulze
2005, 828, which in principle, were shared by Dietz 2007, 465. However, Dietz qualified the first common remuneration rule that had been established under the new German legislation as a success of the system as a whole. See Dietz 2007, 473–474

In practice, the impact of legislation in the field of copyright contract law seems rather modest. Not surprisingly, there is a current discussion about an amendment of the German system which focuses on proposals to further clarify the concept of “fairness”. For example, it has been
proposed to make it clear that a fair remuneration, in principle, requires more than a one-time
“buy-out” payment. Instead, the author should continuously receive a share of the revenue
accruing from the exploitation of his work (see Peifer (2016), 8; Kreile/Schley (2015), 837, for a discussion of a proposed new sentence in § 32(2) of the German Copyright Act).

By Martin Senftleben, Maximilian Kerk, Miriam Buiten and Klaus Heine.


Further Reading

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