Commentary on:
Prussian Copyright Act (1837)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

www.copyrighthistory.org

Identifier: d_1837a

 

Commentary on the Prussian Copyright Act of 1837

Friedemann Kawohl

Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK

 

Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on the Prussian Copyright Act (1837)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. References

 

1. Full title

Statute to protect the Property in Works of Scholarship and the Arts against Reprint and Reproduction (Gesetz zum Schutze des Eigentums an Werken der Wissenschaft und der Kunst gegen Nachdruck und Nachbildung)

 

2. Abstract

The Act of 1837 was the most influential copyright statute in the German lands in the nineteenth century before the copyright legislation of the unified German Reich was enacted in 1870 and 1876.

 

Though provisions in Baden had acknowledged the author's rather than the publishers' property in his works as early as 1806 and 1809 (d_1809), it was the Prussian Statute that for the first time comprised the core concepts of what has been termed a "modern" copyright:[1] the author rather than the publisher was at the centre of the protection, and the protected subject matter consisted of abstract works,[2] rather than specific physical goods. Copyright was thus extended to adaptations, to unpublished lectures and to performances of dramatic and musical works.

 

Together with the Confederation's Directive of 1837 (d_1837b) the Prussian Statute set the standard for future copyright legislation.[3] A detailed commentary on it was published in 1838 by Eduard Hitzig,[4] the head of the Society of (Literary) Copyright Experts (d_1838),[5] the establishment of which had been provided in §§. 17 and 31.

 

3. References

Dölemeyer, B. and Klippel D., "Der Beitrag der deutschen Rechtswissenschaft zur Theorie des gewerblichen Rechtsschutzes und Urheberrechts", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland. Festschrift zum hundertjährigen Bestehen der Deutschen Vereinigung für Gewerblichen Rechtsschutz und Urheberrechtund ihrer Zeitschrift, ed. by F.-K. Beier, A. Kraft, G. Schricker, and E. Wadle (Weinheim: VCH 1991), 2: 185-224

Goldfriedrich, J., Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels 1805-1889, vol. 4 (Leipzig: Verlag des Börsenvereins, 1913)

Hitzig, J. E., Das König. Preußische Gesetz vom 11. Juni 1837 zum Schutze des Eigenthums an Werken der Wissenschaft und Kunst gegen Nachdruck und Nachbildung / Dargest. in seinem Entstehen u. erl. in seinen einzelnen Bestimmungen aus den amtlichen Quellen (Berlin: Dümmler, 1838), reprinted in UFITA 107 (1988): 163-226. The full text is available online at:

http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/bigpage/"151874_00000001"

Kawohl, F., Urheberrecht der Musik in Preußen (Tutzing: Hans Scheider, 2001)

Nomine, R., Der Königlich Preußische Literarische Sachverständigen-Verein in den Jahren 1838 bis 1870 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2001)

Rehbinder, M., "150 Jahre moderne Urheberrechtsgesetzgebung in Deutschland", ZUM [= Zeitschrift für Urheber- und Medienrecht] (1986)

Sherman, B. and Bently, L., The Making of Modern Intellectual Property Law: The British Experience, 1760-1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1999)

Vogel, M., "Deutsche Urheber- und Verlagsrechtsgeschichte zwischen 1450 und 1850. Sozial und methodengeschchtliche Entwicklungsstufen der Rechte von Schriftsteller und Verleger", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 19/1 (1978): cols 1-180

Wadle, E., "Der Weg zum gesetzlichen Schutz des geistigen und gewerblichen Schaffens. Die deutsche Entwicklung im 19. Jahrhundert", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland. Festschrift zum hundertjährigen Bestehen der Deutschen Vereinigung für Gewerblichen Rechtsschutz und Urheberrechtund ihrer Zeitschrift, ed. by F.-K. Beier, A. Kraft, G. Schricker, and E. Wadle (Weinheim: VCH 1991), 2: 93-181

Wadle, E., "Das preußische Urheberrechtsgesetz von 1837 im Spiegel seiner Vorgeschichte", in E. Wadle, Geistiges Eigentum I (Weinheim: VCH 1996), 167-222


[1] The relevant chapter on the Prussian Statute and the Confederation's Directive of 1837 in J. Goldfriedrich's History of the German Book Trade (1911) 166 is entitled: "The End of Reprinting and the Foundation of Modern Author's Rights Legislation (Das Ende des Nachdrucks und die Begründung der modernen Urheberrechtsgesetzgebung). With regard to the Prussian Act specifically, Manfred Rehbinder has published an article on "150 years of modern copyright legislation in Germany" ("150 Jahre moderne Urheberrechtsgesetzgebung in Deutschland", ZUM [= Zeitschrift für Urheber- und Medienrecht] (1986), 328. For the discussion of "modern" intellectual property rights in the UK see: Brad Sherman and Lionel Bently, The Making of Modern Intellectual Property Law: The British Experience, 1760-1911 (Cambridge U.P., 1999)

[2] For the concept of abstract works in copyright see Friedemann Kawohl and Martin Kretschmer, "Abstraction and Registration: Conceptual innovations and supply effects in Prussian and British Copyright (1820-50)", Intellectual Property Quarterly 2003, nr 2: 209-228.

[3] In Hamburg (16 March 1838); in the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (11 January 1839); in Bavaria (15 April 1840); in Brunswick (10 February 1842).

[4] Hitzig, Julius Eduard. Das König. Preußische Gesetz vom 11. Juni 1837 zum Schutze des Eigenthums an Werken der Wissenschaft und Kunst gegen Nachdruck und Nachbildung / Dargest. in seinem Entstehen u. erl. in seinen einzelnen Bestimmungen aus den amtlichen Quellen (Berlin: Dümmler, 1838) reprinted in UFITA 107 (1988) 163-226. The full text is available online: http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/bigpage/"151874_00000001".

Eduard Hitzig (1780-1849) was involved in the new legislation in several respects: as a former publisher, as an author of literary biographies (e.g. on E.T.A. Hoffmann) and as a lawyer who, however, had retired from his post as a Prussian judge in 1835. As an author himself, as an active member of various literary circles in Berlin, and as a former publisher, Hitzig was personally interested in the legal safeguarding of the book trade. And as a lawyer, although not personally involved in the elaboration of the new statute, he was interested in the juridical solutions to the reprinting problem. He was acquainted with both the petitioners for a new copyright act and with the officials who were entrusted with drafting and consulting the new statute. Hitzig was thus the best person available to preside the Society of Literary Copyright Experts whose establishment was decreed by the Act and actually achieved in 1839. From 1840 to 1844 Hitzig was also editor of the Allgemeine Presszeitung, a periodical devoted explicitly to legal aspects of publishing that can be regarded as the first German copyright journal.

Hitzig's book is dedicated to the managing committee of the Publishers' and Book Traders' Association (Börsenverein der Deutschen Buchhändler). On page 2 Hitzig recalls the time when he was a member of that "most honorable corporation of the German booksellers" (höchst ehrenwerthe Körperschaft der Deutschen Buchhändler), describing it as "one of the sweetest memories of his very busy life" (eine der süßesten Erinnerungen seines vielbewegten Lebens). After the preface the book is divided into two parts. A historical introduction (p. 1-46) gives an overview on early privileges, on the Prussian legislation under the Prussian Civil Code ("Allgemeines Landrecht") and the recent directives of the German Confederation. The second part is a commentary on each single section of the Statute.

[5] For the Society of Literary Copyright Experts, see Rainer Nomine, Der Königlich Preußische Literarische Sachverständigen-Verein in den Jahren 1838 bis 1870 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2001). For the Society of Musical Copyright Experts, see Friedemann Kawohl, Urheberrecht der Musik in Preußen (Tutzing, Hans Scheider 2001).


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