Friday, May 20, 2005

Germany: DVD = Video Cassette for Copyright Eploitation

A DVD equals a video cassette when it comes to the commercial exploitation of copyrights. That has the highest court in Germany, the Bundesgerichthof, decided yesterday. It noted that the DVD does no economically independent use form, but merely a technological innovation. A "filmarchitect" (set designer) had sued an exploitation corporation that had distributed the movie "Der Zauberberg" on video cassette, and later on DVD. The filmarchitect claimed that at the time he signed a contract with the production company, the applicable copyright clause (ยง 31 Abs. 4 German Copyright Law) did only cover an exploitation on video cassette, not on DVD.

The Bundesgerichthof affirmed a lower court ruling and noted that a mere technological novelty would not bring a new use (of commercial exploitation). The use must be an independent economic form of use, and since the DVD is to be seen as a replacement of the video cassette, this was not granted. The Bundesgerichthof has referred the case to first instance to conclude on some other copyright exploitation issues concerning a documentary on the movie included on the DVD.

The legal issues in this case are (slightly) reminiscent of the unauthorized inclusion of articles of free lancers writers in databases by news papers. For more on that see this post on a recent settlement in a US class-action lawsuit.
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Thru Urheberrecht [German]
Press release Bundesgerichthof [German]
Der Zauberberg IMDB


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