Commentary on:
Neustetel: The Reprinting of Books (1824)

Back | Commentary info | Commentary
Printer friendly version
Creative Commons License
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: d_1824



Leopold Josef Neustetel, The Reprinting of Books (Heidelberg, 1824)

Friedemann Kawohl

School of Finance & Law, Bournemouth University, UK


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Leopold Josef Neustetel, The Reprinting of Books (Heidelberg, 1824), in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Outline of Neustetel's life

4. Reprinting as an injuria

5. References


1. Full title

Leopold Josef Neustetel, The Reprinting of Books from the Perspective of Roman Law (Heidelberg, 1824)


2. Abstract

Leopold Josef Neustetel‘s book on reprinting is a landmark in what can be described as a paradigm shift from property right to personality right within the German debate on justifying a ban on reprinting. Neustetel regards reprinting as an injuria (infringement of another person's rights) within the system of Roman law. An unauthorised reprint is an offence against the author's personality, since a core part of the latter encompasses the right of the author to express himself and to set the boundaries of this expression. Twentieth-century scholars have seen Neustetel as "the first to deduce copyright from a personality right" (Gieseke).[1] It was, as Martin Vogel puts it, his "personalistic view of copyright"[2] rather than Kant's essay of 1785, which established the theory of author's rights as ‘personality rights' (Persönlichkeitsrechte) within the German context. Apart from Eduard Gans's important article of 1832,[3] however, we find only few and cursory references to Neustetel's line of argument in the academic and legislative literature of the nineteenth century.[4] The commentary gives some details on Neustetel's life and focuses on his concept of reprinting as an injuria.


3. Outline of Neustetel's life

Leopold Josef Neustetel was born on 8 August, 1798, in Offenbach-am-Main (or Hanover, according to another source) and died in Nice on 24 January, 1825. His treatise was published only a few months before his premature death. In 1818, he had obtained a doctorate in canon and civil law in Heidelberg and was then registered as a supreme court attorney (Obergerichtsprokurator) in Hanau. His thesis (which, as was still the practice in those days, Neustetel wrote and defended in Latin) was entitled: Bona-fide transactions, entered upon where the other party had fraudulent intentions, are not null and void".[5] Shortly afterwards, he co-authored a book with Sigmund Zimmern (1796-1830) on Roman legal scholarship and practise, which was published in 1821.[6] Unlike his Jewish fellow students Eduard Gans[7] and Sigmund Zimmern,[8] Neustetel never converted to Protestantism. On 29 August, 1821, after an engagement lasting three years, he was married, according to the Jewish rites, to his friend's sister Regine (Julie) Zimmern (1800-70).[9] They had two daughters, Mathilde (b.1822) and Emma (b.1823).


4. Reprinting as an injuria

In Roman law an injuria was recognised originally when physical damage to a person by striking or beating had taken place, and in classical Roman jurisprudence the concept was broadened to embrace libellous writings. With reference to contemporary literature on Roman law Neustetel identifies injuria as any intrusion on the legal capacity of a person and thus on the individual's personality as such:

"The citizen's legal capacity (dignitatis llaesae status, existimatio) extends to all the various states which are connected with a person during his life. These include above all: (a) all those manifestations of a person which emanate from the latter so immediately and which are so necessary for his or her free existence, that, like the instinctive activities of the physical organism, they cannot be separated from that person, and which must therefore also be kept as free from external obstacles and influences as life itself - such manifestations as, e.g. walking, strolling, sitting down somewhere, and so on; then (b) a person can, in competition with others, acquire rights to which other persons could have been entitled just as well - rights to things, contract rights. An encroachment on any of these rights does not in itself constitute as yet an infringement of the person's legal capacity, but the latter can indirectly be violated in these rights, depending on the nature of the encroachment. Finally (c) the individual who is conscious of the full enjoyment of his legal capacity is circumscribed by a sphere of recognition of his dignity, which is presupposed on the basis of these basic qualities being present. This sphere, namely, is honour - and since an attack on the latter is also an attack on precisely those foundations on which it is based, and with it the whole legal capacity of the individual, the foundations are themselves protected together with the person's honour. Our language is able to encapsulate in one word the individual's legal capacity and its direct and indirect emanations, together with their foundations and the honour in which these are reflected - that word is personality."[10]


Neustetel then stresses that not every offence against a person, but, rather, only those against the personality fall under the Roman law concept of injuria:

"Not every encroachment on a person is an injuria in the strict sense of the word, but, rather, only those which take place out of overbearing presumption - so we do not count as injuria deceit, forgery, treachery, perjury, theft, etc. Since the mentality which leads someone to commit the latter forms of injustice does precisely acknowledge the general legal capacity of the person who is to become their victim, insofar as cunning and deceit are employed to rob that person of a particular right, e.g. to take over his property by means of theft, whereby the capacity of owning property is not being denied at any point."[11]


Having thus established his definition of injuria as an intrusion into the personality, Neustetel then needs to prove that reprinting is an injuria. Leaving aside any arguments with regard to the author's or publisher's labour or capital, Neustetel concentrates on the freedom of expression (Freiheit der Äußerung). The publicity of the book is decisive and in this respect his argument bears a similarity with that of Kant, who had regarded the book as an "instrument for delivering a speech to the public".[12]  But unlike Kant, who had identified the injustice of reprinting in the fact that the reprinter is presuming to speak in the author's name, and thus performing an "agency without authority", Neustetel does not make any reference at all to the original publisher. Although his argument is based on the Kantian difference between person and personality, Neustetel widens the concept of a person's freedom to express oneself to the freedom to stipulate the public sphere where this expression shall be received:

"First of all, it is an undeniable right of a person to be able as such to express and communicate his or her thoughts. This right, the immediate emanation of the legal capacity and therefore protected against presumptuous infringements by means of the actio injuriarum, might seem irrelevant here [to the question of reprinting - F.K.], insofar as reprinting does not contest the right of communication as such, but, rather, just its exclusivity to the benefit of the author. However, upon closer examination it will be found that the latter right includes a restriction, to a greater or lesser degree (depending on the particular object being expressed), on its divulgation by others. For the natural freedom to express oneself does not just consist in the removal of circumstances which directly prevent the physical delivery of what one wishes to express - rather, the former requires just as much protection against indirect encroachments, too. The latter can, in particular, include an action whereby someone else's utterances are divulged without the consent of their originator [Urheber]. Since every utterance is meant for a specific sphere, in accordance with the intentions of the originator, the requisite protection of these intentions would fail to be given if anybody else were allowed just like that, as and when it occurred to them, to transport these utterances into another sphere. Therefore, an essential component of the freedom of expression is the ability to express oneself only insofar as one wishes and not there where one doesn't."[13]

Neustetel's focus on the author's freedom to decide to which audience (or readership) he might wish to address his 'speech', was adopted in Gans's defence of performance rights for dramatic authors.


5. References

Books and articles [in alphabetical order] 

[Anonymous], Reflexionen über den Büchernachdruck: besonders zur Gewinnung eines neuen Gesichtspunktes in Betreff seiner Widerrechtlichkeit (Heidelberg: Neue Akademische Buchhandlung, 1823)

Braun, J., "Sigmund Zimmern (1796-1830) - ein deutsch-jüdisches Gelehrtenschicksal daragestellt anhand von Auszügen aus Akten und Briefen", Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 106 (1991): 210-236

Gieseke, L., Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht. Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995)

Neustetel, L. J., Bonae fidei negotia dolo inita non esse nulla / auctore Leopoldo Josepho Neustetel (Heidelberg 1818)

Neustetel, L. J. and S. Zimmern, Römisch-rechtliche Untersuchungen für Wissenschaft und Ausübung (Heidelberg: Carl Groos 1821)

Vogel, M., "Deutsche Urheber- und Verlagsrechtsgeschichte zwischen 1450 und 1850", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 29 (1978): 1-180

Wadle, E., "Nachdruck als Injurie", in his Geistiges Eigentum. Bausteine zur Rechtsgeschichte (Weinheim: VCH, 1996), 129-144

[1] Gieseke, Ludwig. Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht. Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995) 217.

[2] Vogel, Martin. "Deutsche Urheber- und Verlagsrechtsgeschichte zwischen 1450 und 1850". In: Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 29 (1978): 1-180, here 87.

[3] Cf. d_1832

[4]Elmar Wadle, "Nachdruck als Injurie", in his Geistiges Eigentum: Bausteine zur Rechtsgeschichte (Weinheim: VCH, 1996), 129-144 (136). Kramer (d_1827b) acknowledges Neustetel's book as "a detailed confutation of the [property-based] view of the authors' right", but criticises his alternative.

[5] Bonae fidei negotia dolo inita non esse nulla / auctore Leopoldo Josepho Neustetel (Heidelberg 1818).

[6] Leopold Josef Neustetel and Sigmund Zimmern, Römisch-rechtliche Untersuchungen für Wissenschaft und Ausübung (Heidelberg: Carl Groos 1821).

[7] For details on Eduard Gans see d_1832 and d_1834.

[8] Sigmund Zimmern was appointed a professor (albeit without a salary) at Heidelberg only weeks after he was baptised on 11 September, 1821. Being Jewish was generally a barrier for careers in the civil service and academia, though the Baden laws were unclear in the latter case. The Heidelberg Law Faculty, on the one hand, adopted a markedly liberal approach: Jewish doctoral candidates were matriculated and awarded degrees just like their Christian counterparts in those years (apart from Neustetel and Zimmern, this was also the case with Eduard Gans, for example). But on the other hand, Justus Thibaut (1772-1840), the distinguished head of the faculty, made public declarations such as the following: "as long as Jews are excluded from the civil service and the bench, it is necessary that our university should be treated completely as a Christian institute, in particular with regard to jurisprudence, which is substantiated in Christianity". See more details in Johann Braun, "Sigmund Zimmern (1796-1830): ein deutsch-jüdisches Gelehrtenschicksal daragestellt anhand von Auszügen aus Akten und Briefen", Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 106 (1991): 210-236.

[9] After Neustetel's death, Regine married Salomon Jolberg on 16 November, 1826. Jolberg was the former domestic tutor of her younger siblings with whom she had fallen in love even before her marriage to Neustetel. Two months before their marriage they both converted to Protestantism. Jolberg died in 1829, and Regine was later to found a Sisters of Mercy convent in Nonnenweiler and had a great influence on Protestant education of children in nineteenth-century Germany.

[10] "Die Rechtsfähigkeit des Bürgers (dignitatis llaesae status, existimatio) verbreitet sich über die verschiedenen Zustände des Lebens, die mit der Person verknüpft sind. Vor allem gehören hierher: a) alle diejenigen Äusserungen der Person, die so unmittelbar aus ihr hervorgehen, und zu ihrer freien Existenz so nothwendig sind, daß sie gleich den willenlosen Thätigkeiten des physischen Lebensorganismus von ihr nicht getrennt werden können, und deshalb auch so frei von Hinderungen und Einwirkungen, wie das Leben selbst, erhalten werden müssen, z.B. zu gehen, zu lustwandeln, irgendwo zu sitzen und dgl. Sodann: b) erwirbt sich die Person, in der Concurrenz mit Anderen, Rechte, die ebensowohl anderen Personen hätten zustehen können; Rechte an Sachen, Vertrags-Rechte. Der Angriff auf einzelne dieser Rechte ist an sich noch keiner auf die Rechtsfähigkiet; doch kann diese in ihnen duch die Art des Angrffs mittelbar verletzt werden. Endlich c) zieht sich um das Individuum, das im Genusse voller Rechtsfähigkeit sich befindet, eine Sphäre von Anerkennung seiner Würdigkeit, die aus dem Vorhandenseyn jener Grundeigenschaften präsumirt wird. Diese ist die Ehre; und da ein Angriff auf dieselbe eben jene Grundlagen angreift, worauf sie, und mit und in ihr die ganze Rechtsfähigkeit beruht, so werden die Grundlagen selbst in der Ehre beschützt. Unsere Sprache umfaßt die Rechtsfähigkeit mit ihren unmittelbaren und mittelbaren Ausflüssen, mit ihren Grundlagen und der Ehre, worin diese sich reflektiren, in dem Worte: Persönlichkeit." (p. 29f of this document). This and the following passages from Neustetel's book were translated by Luis Sundkvist.

[11] "Nicht jede Verletzung der Person ist injuria im engern Sinne, sondern nur die aus Anmaßung und Übermuth, also nicht der Betrug, die Fälschung, der Verrath, Meineid, Diebstahl u.s.w. Denn die Gesinnung, welche diese Formen des Unrechts hervorbringt, erkennt gerade eher die allgemeine Rechtsfähigkeit des Andern an, insofern Schlauheit und Hinterlist aufgeboten werden, ihm ein einzelns Recht zu entreissen, z.B. sich diebischer Weise sein Eigenthum anzueignen, wourch die Fähigkeit, Eigenthum zu besitzen, nicht geläugnet wird". (p. 32f.)

[12] Cf. the commentary for d_1785.

[13] "Zunächst ist es ein unbestreitbares Recht der Person, ihre Gedanken überhaupt zu äußern und mitzutheilen. Dieses Recht, unmittelbarer Ausfluß der Rechtsfähigkeit, und darum gegen anmaßliche Störungen mittels der actio injuriarum geschützt, könnte hier in so fern gleichgültig scheinen, als der Nachdruck nicht das Recht der Mittheilung an sich, sondern nur dessen Ausschließlichkeit zu Gunsten des Autors, bestreitet. Allein, genauer betrachtet, liegt in jenem Rechte selbst, eine nach dem besondern Gegenstande der Aeusserung grössere oder geringere Beschränkung des Bekanntmachens durch Andere. Die natürliche Freiheit sich auszusprechen, besteht nämlich nicht allein in der Entfernung von Umständen, welche unmittelbar das Hervortreten der Äusserung verhindern, vielmehr bedarf dieselbe eben so sehr des Schutzes gegen mittelbare Angriffe. Zu den letzteren kann insbesondere die Handlung gehören, wodurch fremde Äusserungen, ohne Einwilligung ihres Urhebers, bekannt gemacht werden. Denn da jede Äusserung nach der Bestimmung ihres Urhebers, für eine gewisse Sphäre berechnet ist, so würde die erforderliche Sicherstellung dieser Absicht nicht vorhanden seyn, wenn das Entrücken in eine ander Sphäre, jedem Dritten nach seinem Belieben unbedingt freistünde. Zur Freiheit der Äusserung gehört daher wesentlich die Fähigkeit, sich nur in so weit, als man will, und da nicht, wo man nicht will, äussern zu können." (p. 46 f.) 



Our Partners

Copyright statement

You may copy and distribute the translations and commentaries in this resource, or parts of such translations and commentaries, in any medium, for non-commercial purposes as long as the authorship of the commentaries and translations is acknowledged, and you indicate the source as Bently & Kretschmer (eds), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) (

You may not publish these documents for any commercial purposes, including charging a fee for providing access to these documents via a network. This licence does not affect your statutory rights of fair dealing.

Although the original documents in this database are in the public domain, we are unable to grant you the right to reproduce or duplicate some of these documents in so far as the images or scans are protected by copyright or we have only been able to reproduce them here by giving contractual undertakings. For the status of any particular images, please consult the information relating to copyright in the bibliographic records.

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