Copyright Act for the German Empire, Berlin (1870)

Source: Max-Planck-Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt

Copyright Act for the German Empire, Berlin (1870), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Record-ID: d_1870

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Full title:
Statute concerning author's rights to works of literature, illustrations, musical compositions and dramatic works. Of 11 June 1870, as published in: 'Bundesgesetzblatt des Norddeutschen Bundes' 19 (1870): 339-353

Full title original language:
Gesetz, betreffend das Urheberrcht an Schriftwerken, Abbildungen, musikalischen Kompositionen und dramatischen Werken. Vom 11. Juni 1870

The Copyright Act of 1870 is the most important piece of copyright legislation enacted in Germany between the Prussian Act of 1837 (d_1837a) and the Copyright Act of 1901. Initially discussed and enacted within the context of the North German Confederation (1867-71), it was adopted by the new German Empire on the same day that the latter was officially constituted on 1 January 1871. The provisions were confined to literary, musical, dramatic works and printed images, whereas highly contested issues such as 'works of art', 'industrial designs' and 'photography' were left to be regulated later by the Copyright Acts of 1876 (d_1876). The rights granted to authors were in principle limited to protection against unauthorised reprinting. Thus, any protection of derivative works had to be justified by classing them together with 'reprints'. This commentary focuses on the constitutional underpinning of the Act, gives an overview of the main provisions, and demonstrates how the decisions of the German Supreme Court (Reichsgericht) soon came to undermine the strict adherence to the basic concept of 'reprinting' and thus paved the way for a modern binary concept of 'work' and 'author', as laid down in the Copyright Act of 1901.

1 Commentary:


Related documents in this database:
1876: Copyright Acts for the German Empire regarding works of art, photography, and designs
1891: 50 Prussian Expert Opinions from 1870-1876

Author: N.N.

Publisher: Gesetz=Sammlungs=Debits= und Zeitungs=Komptoir

Year: 1870

Location: Berlin

Language: German

Source: Max-Planck-Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt

Persons referred to:
Bismarck, Otto von
Wilhelm I

Places referred to:

Cases referred to:

Institutions referred to:
Bundesrat (Federal Council) of the North German Confederation
Federal Chancellery Office (Berlin)
Leipzig City Council
Leipzig Commercial Court
Reichstag of the North German Confederation
Supreme Commercial Court of the North German Confederation (Leipzig)

Copyright Act for the German Empire 1870

Börsenverein (German Publishers' and Booksellers' organisation)
anonymous works
applied art, protected subject matter
architecture, protected subject matter
attribute, obligation to
authorship, corporate
authorship, joint or collaborative
authorship, legal concept of
books, protected subject matter
copying, concept of
dramatic works, protected subject matter
dramatico-musical works, protected subject matter
drawings, protected subject matter
duration, post mortem term
editions, new
fair use
foreign reprints
international agreements, Berne Convention
law books
maps, protected subject matter
music publishing
music, protected subject matter
oral works, protected subject matter
penalties, paid to author(s)
penalties, paid to fiscal authorities
penalties, paid to publisher(s)
photography, protected subject matter
public performance
scholarly writing
societies, copyright
translation, right of
translations, of contemporary works
translations, protection of
unpublished works

Responsible editor: Friedemann Kawohl

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK