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What is copyright?


Copyright is a field of law dealing with the protection of literary, scientific and artistic works. It grants creators of original works exclusive rights to use and distribute their works.

Basics of copyright

What is protected?

Copyright protects a variety of works, including but not limited to:

  • Literary works: books, articles, poems, etc.
  • Musical works: songs, compositions, etc.
  • Artistic works: paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc.
  • Audiovisual works: films, videos, etc.
  • Software: Computer programs.

Who is the author?

The author of a work is the person or group who created the work. Copyright usually arises automatically as soon as a work exists in tangible form.

Rights of the author

Copyright grants the author various exclusive rights, such as:

  • Reproduction right: The right to make copies of the work.
  • Distribution right: The right to publish and sell the work.
  • Right to edit: The right to modify the work or create new works based on it.
  • Performance Right: The right to publicly perform or present the Work.

Legal regulations and international protection

Copyright is regulated by law in many countries. In Germany, for example, it is enshrined in the Copyright Act (UrhG). Internationally, there are also agreements such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which provide a common basis for copyright protection in the contracting states.

Restrictions and exceptions

Copyright is not absolute and is subject to certain limitations and exceptions, such as:

  • Quotation right: Allows parts of a work to be used in a new context, such as for criticism or commentary.
  • Restriction regulations: In some cases, copyrighted works may be used without the author’s consent, e.g., for educational purposes.
  • Creative Commons licenses: Some creators choose licenses that allow others to use their works under certain conditions.

Digital media and the Internet

The advent of the Internet and digital media has created new challenges for copyright law. Sharing and copying content is easier than ever, often resulting in copyright infringement. To counteract this, there are laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the U.S. that deal specifically with copyright in the digital world.

Copyright enforcement

Copyright enforcement can be challenging, especially on the Internet. Copyright owners or rights holders who believe that their rights have been infringed can take various steps, such as:

  • Warning letters: The rights holder may send a formal notice to the alleged infringer requesting him to cease the infringement.
  • Assertion in court: If the alleged infringer does not respond to a warning notice or continues the infringement, the rights holder can take legal action.
  • Takedown requests: On the Internet, rights holders can request platforms such as YouTube or Facebook to remove content that they believe infringes copyright.

Fair use and similar concepts

In some countries, such as the U.S., there is a concept of “fair use” that allows copyrighted works to be used without the permission of the rights holder under certain circumstances. This can apply to purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, education, and research. In Germany, a similar concept exists under the term “barriers to copyright”.

Importance for creatives and consumers

Copyright is of central importance to creators because it allows them to profit from their works and retain control over their use. It is important for consumers and users of works to understand copyright law in order to act legally and respect the rights of creators.


Copyright protects the rights of creators of original works and plays an important role in the creative industries and culture. With advances in technology and the advent of the Internet, the landscape of copyright has evolved. It remains important for creators to know and protect their rights, and for consumers to behave responsibly and in accordance with the law.

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