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Kohler: Author's Right (1880)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

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Identifier: d_1880

 

Commentary on Josef Kohler: The Author's Right

Friedemann Kawohl

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

 

Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Josef Kohler's The Author's Right (1880)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org
 

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Kohler and his theory of ‘rights to immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte)

4. References

 

1. Full title

Josef Kohler, The Author's Right, a civil law treatise, which is also a contribution to the theory of property, joint property, legal transactions and individual rights (1880)

 

2. Abstract

The Author's Right (1880) is the first of three major works on copyright by Josef Kohler (1849-1919), who also published groundbreaking books on the law of patents, industrial designs and trademarks. Kohler had a good overview of worldwide developments in intellectual property law, ranging from the national legislation of Argentina, Ecuador or Chile to the latest judicial decisions by the courts in France and the United States.

 

It was he who established the concept of  ‘rights for immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte), comprising copyrights, patents, trademarks, design rights (Geschmacksmuster), and rights for utility models (Gebrauchsmuster).  Kohler's theory of ‘rights for immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte) provided a solution to the hitherto unsuccessful attempts to anchor author's rights as ‘intellectual property' within the general concept of property. As a consequence of the German jurists' strict adherence to Roman law concepts, a true property could neither be extended to immaterial objects nor be terminated.

 

This commentary will concentrate on Kohler's theory of rights to immaterial goods (Immaterialgüterrechte).

 

3. Kohler and his theory of ‘rights to immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte)

The Author's Right (1880) is the first of three major works on copyright[1] by Josef Kohler (1849-1919), who was then a recently appointed professor at Würzburg University and would eventually also write groundbreaking books on the law of patents,[2] industrial designs,[3] and trademarks. However, being a true polymath he by no means restricted himself to the field of intellectual property alone. His list of publications extends to over 2,500 works,[4] including treatises on public international law,[5] international penal law,[6] legal philosophy,[7] legal history and comparative law, including rather remote studies on the law of the Aztecs, and the Papua and Bantu tribes in East Africa. He also published a theatre play, as well as German versions of Lao-Tzu's Tao-te-Ching,[8] Petrarch's sonnets[9] and a translation of Shakespeare's Richard III.[10]

 

The areas where his influence has proved most important, both in Germany and abroad, were intellectual property law and comparative law. Kohler had a good overview of worldwide developments in intellectual property law, ranging from the national legislation of Argentina, Ecuador or Chile to the latest judicial decisions by the courts in France and the United States. Especially where the field of intellectual property was concerned, he felt that "not taking foreign literature on the subject into account means to render one's argumentation incomplete and defective".[11] The comparative approach which he preferred is evident from the very titles of many of his publications - e.g. The Law of Trademark Protection, with reference to foreign legislation and special consideration of English, Anglo-American, French, Belgian and Italian jurisprudence (1884).[12]

 

It was he who established the concept of ‘rights for immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte),[13] comprising copyrights, patents, design rights (Geschmacksmuster), and rights for utility models (Gebrauchsmuster). Kohler's theory of ‘rights for immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüterrechte) provided a solution to the hitherto unsuccessful attempts to anchor author's rights as ‘intellectual property' within the general concept of property. As a consequence of the German jurists' strict adherence to Roman law concepts, a true property could neither be extended to immaterial objects nor be terminated.

 

Kohler's The Author's Right is not structured into chapters: the extract that we have selected for translation, apart from illustrating some key aspects of his theory of Immaterialgüterrechte, also reflects his somewhat rambling style, which nevertheless does make for entertaining reading because of his inventive comparisons and remarkably broad literary and cultural references.

 

Taking as his basis the economic concept of ‘immaterial goods' (Immaterialgüter), Kohler assumes that there are rights in these goods. These rights are rooted in the person of the creator, even after these goods have been detached from the author or inventor. The strong bond between persons (authors, inventors, but also manufacturers in the case of industrial designs and trademarks) and their immaterial goods is based on the act of creation. Here Kohler explicitly refers to John Locke's labour theory. Thus, rather like property rights in material goods, the Immaterialgüterrechte are rooted in natural rights of the authors, inventors and manufacturers, instead of depending on the bestowal of a certain monopoly right or privilege by the State.

 

Kohler was among the first who explicitly drew a line between personal (or individual) rights and the rights to immaterial goods. Whereas the goods that personal rights relate to (e.g. the physical and intellectual ability of a human being) cannot be disposed of, immaterial goods like books or inventions can be alienated (p.74).[14]

 

Kohler did not tire of insisting on the coexistence of what were then called personal rights and the author's right as an Immaterialgüterrecht,[15] which equates roughly with the dichotomy of moral rights and exploitation rights in modern copyright terminology. Kohler was thus a proponent of a dualistic theory of copyright. Eventually, though, the monistic theory, i.e. the concurrence of personal and exploitation aspects, as proposed by another eminent jurist, Otto von Gierke (1841-1921), would prevail in German law. The monistic idea is most clearly expressed in § 11 of the Urheberrechtsgesetz (Copyright Act) of 1965, which states that

"Copyright law protects the author in his intellectual and personal relations to the work and in the exploitation of the work. At the same time it also serves to guarantee an appropriate reimbursement for exploitation of the work."[16]

Despite the defeat of the dualistic theory, Kohler is widely accepted as the most influential German jurist at the turn of the twentieth century.

 

4. References

  

Books and articles [in alphabetical order]

Adrian, J. (ed.), Josef Kohler und der Schutz des geistigen Eigentums in Europa (Berlin: Spitz, 1996) 

Dölemeyer, B., "Theorie des gewerblichen Rechtsschutzes und Urheberrechts", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland, ed. by F.-K. Beier, A. Kraft, G. Schricker, E. Wadle (Weinheim: VCH, 1991) 

Dölemeyer, B., "'Das Urheberrecht ist ein Weltrecht': Rechtsvergleichung und Immaterialgüterrecht bei Josef Johler", in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa, ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1993) 

Götting, H.-P., Persönlichkeitsrechte als Vermögensrechte (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1995) 

Kohler, J., Das Recht des Markenschutzes mit Berücksichtigung der ausländischen Gesetzgebung und mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die englische, anglo-amerikanische, französische, belgische und Italienische Jurisprudenz (Würzburg: Stachel, 1884). Available online at:

<http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/books/"160702"

___., Das literarische und artistische Kunstwerk und sein Autorschutz: Eine juridisch-ästhetische Studie (Mannheim: Bensheimer, 1892) 

___., Aus Petrarcas Sonettenschatz (Berlin: Reimer, 1902) 

___., Urheberrecht an Schriftwerken und Verlagsrecht (Stuttgart: Enke 1907) 

___., Musterrecht : Geschmacks- und Gebrauchsmusterrecht (Stuttgart: Enke, 1909). Available online at:

<http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/books/"160696"

___., Lehrbuch der Rechtsphilosophie (Stuttgart: Enke, 1909) 

___., Tao Te King. Des Morgenlandes grösste Weisheit (Berlin: Rothschild 1909) 

___., Internationales Strafrecht (Stuttgart: Enke, 1917) 

___., Grundlagen des Völkerrechts (Stuttgart: Enke, 1918) 

___., Shakespeare, William: König Richard II. (Decker: Berlin, 1918)


[1] Kohler's later major publications on copyright were Das literarische und artistische Kunstwerk und sein Autorschutz: Eine juridisch-ästhetische Studie (Mannheim: Bensheimer, 1892) and Urheberrecht an Schriftwerken und Verlagsrecht (Stuttgart: Enke 1907).

[2] Josef Kohler, Deutsches Patentrecht systematisch bearbeitet unter vergleichender Berücksichtigung des französischen Patentrechts (Mannheim: Bensheimer, 1878).

[3] Musterrecht: Geschmacks- und Gebrauchsmusterrecht (Stuttgart: Enke, 1909). This is available online at:

<http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/books/"160696">

[4] Barbara Dölemeyer, "'Das Urheberrecht ist ein Weltrecht': Rechtsvergleichung und Immaterialgüterrecht bei Josef Kohler", in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa, ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1993).

[5] Josef Kohler, Grundlagen des Völkerrechts (Stuttgart: Enke, 1918).

[6] Kohler, Internationales Strafrecht. (Stuttgart: Enke, 1917).

[7] Kohler, Lehrbuch der Rechtsphilosophie (Stuttgart: Enke, 1909)

[8] Kohler, Tao Te King. Des Morgenlandes grösste Weisheit (Berlin: Rothschild 1909).

[9] Kohler, Aus Petrarcas Sonettenschatz (Berlin: Reimer,1902).

[10] Kohler, Shakespeare, William: König Richard II. (Decker: Berlin, 1918).

[11] Quoted in Dölemeyer (1993), 140. Cf. a similar observation on p.61 (image 64) of our document.

[12] Kohler, Das Recht des Markenschutzes mit Berücksichtigung der ausländischen Gesetzgebung und mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die englische, anglo-amerikanische, französische, belgische und Italienische Jurisprudenz (Würzburg: Stachel 1884). Available online at:

<http://dlib-pr.mpier.mpg.de/m/kleioc/0010/exec/books/"160702">

[13] Barbara Dölemeyer, "Theorie des gewerblichen Rechtsschutzes und Urheberrechts", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland, ed. by Friedrich-Karl Beier, Alfons Kraft, Gerhard Schricker, Elmar Wadle (Weinheim: VCH, 1991), vol.1, 229.

[14] Kohler's distinction is still observed today. Cf. Horst-Peter Götting, Persönlichkeitsrechte als Vermögensrechte (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1995), 2.

[15] Cf. Kohler (1907), 14-17.

[16] "Das Urheberrecht schützt den Urheber in seinen geistigen und persönlichen Beziehungen zum Werk und in der Nutzung des Werkes. Es dient zugleich der Sicherung einer angemessenen Vergütung für die Nutzung des Werkes." In Urheberrechtsgesetz vom 9. September 1965 (BGBl. I S. 1273), zuletzt geändert durch Artikel 12 Abs. 4 des Gesetzes vom 13. Dezember 2007 (BGBl. I S. 2897). Available online at:

<http://bundesrecht.juris.de/urhg/BJNR012730965.html>.


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