16. Jun 15

BGH on plagiarism and copyright law

Accusations of plagiarism and copyright law play a significant role, inter alia, in the music industry. The German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof (BGH)) is currently dealing with accusations of plagiarism.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: In the case in question, a band sued for an injunction and damages against a rapper. The latter was said to have adopted in 13 of his tracks approx. ten-second long tone sequences of the band without its authorization and used them in a constantly repeating loop. The band’s copyrights were thus claimed to have been breached. The band asserted its rights as composers and lyricists. The rapper had not, however, adopted the texts.

The first two instances largely found in favour of the band. The courts recognised the tone sequences as being eligible for copyright protection. However, the rapper appealed and was at least partially successful before the BGH. The band’s case concerning its copyright as lyricists was dismissed by the Karlsruhe judges in their ruling dated April 16, 2015 (I ZR 225/12). The Court stated that because only parts of the music and not the texts had been adopted there was no breach of copyright. The Karlsruhe judges held that an original combination of text and music was not protected by copyright.

They took a different view of the case with respect to the composition. The BGH criticized the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg for arriving at its conclusion without the assistance of a court-appointed expert that the short sequences went beyond a routine creative work and were therefore worthy of protection. The BGH referred the matter back to the appeal court for another hearing.

The case shows how difficult it frequently is to answer questions pertaining to copyright law as there is no dedicated public register. This applies not only to the music industry but also many other sectors. Copyrights should therefore be examined very carefully. In principle, intellectual property ought to be protected by copyright law both conceptually and materially. Giving evidence regarding intellectual property rights can, however, prove challenging. In order to prevent and protect oneself against copyright breaches, a lawyer competent in the field of copyright law can be consulted.

For more informations: http://www.grprainer.com/en/legal-advice/intellectual-property-law-and-trademark-law/copyright-law.html

Do you have any questions?
Make an appointment at one of our locations in Cologne, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich or Stuttgart! For International inquiries, please contact us at our offices in London or Singapore!