Who owns the copyright of a film?

Copyright in film: protection of moving images

From copyright.de, last update on: May 16, 2021

Regardless of whether it is a creative leisure activity or a big blockbuster, cinematic works are usually with a great effort connected. Planning and practical implementation take a lot of time and can also result in high costs. The copyright in film protects the author and his film work.

Film copyright FAQ

Does copyright law allow a public screening of a film?

In order to use a film in public, the respective right of use must be acquired. In the case of a public film screening, this would be §19 UrhG, the right of presentation, performance and screening. The corresponding license can usually be requested from the responsible collecting society.

Are all types of film covered by copyright protection? So also commercials?

Similar to feature films, commercials are based on complex and well thought-out concepts, so that it can generally be assumed that they are subject to copyright protection.

Are videos on Youtube also protected by copyright?

Copyright can protect a video on Youtube or other social media if there is a creative and creative effort.

Does the copyright also apply to film excerpts?

Yes, film excerpts are also subject to film copyright and are therefore protected. Film excerpts can, however, be used in the form of quotations without the permission of the author. It should be noted, however, that the quote never stands alone, that it has to be dealt with. In addition, the film excerpt may not be edited and must be provided with a reference to the source.

May self-made concert recordings be uploaded to video platforms?

As a performance, a concert already falls under copyright protection, which is why recording the video is often inadmissible. Distribution via a video platform on the Internet is therefore also prohibited and can have legal consequences.

Is a film protected by copyright?

The copyright serves Protection of the author and his work. The Copyright Act (UrhG) defines this term under Section 2 (2) as personal-spiritual creations. According to the UrhG, the following creations are among the protected works:

  1. Language works (books and speeches)
  2. Works of music (sheet music and compositions)
  3. pantomime works and works of dance art (choreographies)
  4. Works of fine arts (sculptures and sculptures)
  5. Photographic works (photographs)
  6. Films (documentaries and feature films)
  7. Representations of a scientific or technical nature (sketches and maps)

As can be seen from this list, films can fall under copyright protection. That is what the law sees a certain degree of originality and a personal touch in front. These Objectively evaluate performance, is regularly a challenge for the German courts.

Fictional Feature films are based on well thought-out concepts, which is why the protection provided by copyright for the film is only questioned in the rarest of cases. Due to the creative achievementwho are responsible for planning and production of Commercials and computer games is applied, these are also usually protected.

It is difficult to assess Film interviews. Here, the linguistic and visual design must be viewed individually. Among other things, they are important Camera work and lighting.

The pure reporting is not considered a cinematographic work because it usually does not show any individual design. Still, she enjoys being Motion picture, property rights related to copyright.

As Motion pictures films are referred to that do not have sufficient personal and intellectual creation. So these are recordings that have a Just film what happened. The motion pictures are protected for a total of 50 years.

It is also sufficient for copyright protection not just the idea for the latest hit at the box office or for an innovative game show on television. Because this one Protection only comes into effect with creation.

In order for the copyright to apply to films, the Idea take on a concrete formthat can be perceived by the human senses. So the draft for a film has to be formulated become. Mostly there will be a script used. The written form is not necessary for the copyright law for films, but this is the method customary in the industry.

If only a summary of the film material is available, this is called Expose designated. However, one should always keep in mind: the more fully formulated the idea, the more likely it is that it is copyrighted Protection against plagiarism.

If there are concerns about plagiarism and theft of ideas, the author can do a Copy of his work deposit with a notary or lawyer. In this way, in the event of a dispute, a statement can be made about the possible time of occurrence. However, fall for the deposit costs at.

Who is the author of the film?

When it comes to film, a distinction must be made between Author of the pre-existing works and the film author. To the pre-existing works include that script or the novel, but also that Film music can be counted towards this.

Pre-existing works are considered independent creation and therefore also fall under the protection of copyright. However, the author of the novel is not automatically the author of the film. The The film author must influence the production of the film and shape it with its personal touch.

As "Classic" author usually applies to film Director. But also cameraman, sound engineer, lighting technician and producer can make a corresponding creative contribution to the film work. Like this one Contribution to the film work the following list shows:

  • The Director is usually for that Overall composition of the film responsible. He influences the staging of the individual scenes and the way the actors play. As a result, he shapes creation through his personal and creative performance, which is why, according to copyright law, he is usually considered the creator of films.
  • Is the camera operator bound by the director's specifications, this is not considered Co-author. However, if he is able to act freely when designing the picture and implement his own ideas, the case must be assessed differently.
  • In individual cases, the mixer be a co-author. This is possible if his work instructions are formulated in a very general way so that the sound engineer can use his own ideas and concepts can contribute to the sound image.
  • Also a cutter can, if he can freely decide in his work which recordings are to be linked to the Co-authors counting. Once again, the director's influence is crucial.
  • The creations of Costume and production designers often do not fall under the copyright for films, but are among the pre-existing works.
  • actor can due to their activity as performing artists not in possession of the authorship be. However, if an actor is also the director of the film, he can thereby acquire (co-) authorship.
The UrhG sees a demarcation from Creator and manufacturer in front. The film manufacturer bears both the economic and organizational risk for the production of the film.

Film copyright: exploitation and use

The creator of the film alone decides on the Utilization in physical and non-physical form. Through the Exploitation rights he thus decides when and how the film will be made available to the public.

The protection afforded by copyright in the case of films does not apply indefinitely. 70 years after the author's death the protection expires.

For the reproduction of a work the term is the Publicity crucial. It is defined as Group of peoplethat are not directly related to the originator. So there is a clear differentiation between showing films in public or showing them to friends.

For cinematographic works is above all the incorporeal recovery of great importance. The copyright for film provides, among other things, the following exploitation rights:

  • Lecture, performance and presentation rights (§19 UrhG)
  • Broadcasting right (§ 20 UrhG)
  • Right of reproduction by video or audio media (§ 21 UrhG)
  • Right to reproduce radio broadcasts (Section 22 UrhG)

If the creator of the film cannot or does not want to exhaust the exploitation rights alone, he can Grant third party usage rights. In this context, Licenses spoken.


The film author can grant both simple and exclusive rights of use. At the simple right of use can acquire further exploiters licenses. This is the case, for example, when different cinemas obtain the showing rights to a film.

If a producer secures the rights of use for a script, it is almost always one exclusive licenseso that only this producer can film the script. The transfer prevents utilization by third parties and even by the author.

The rights of use can also be limited in terms of time, space and content. The restrictions apply to broadcasting rights, for example. Through the time limit can be a TV station for one an exclusive broadcast right for a specified period be awarded.

Find one Splitting of broadcasting rights to certain countries instead, this is one spatial restriction. If the forms of exploitation are to be exploited independently, this is done by the content restriction. The division between Pay TV and Free TV is one such form of exploitation.

Do the restrictions of copyright also apply to film?

The legislature sees in favor of the general public Interfering with the rights of authors before, these are called Barriers designated. Among other things, they serve the Protection of freedom of the press, broadcasting and information.

The barriers also allow the production of individual copies for private use, also known as Private copy. It is true that through the barrier the Manufacturing permitted, but not the distribution or public reproduction of the private copy.

The prerequisite for making private copies is that the Submission not from an obviously illegal source originates. These sources include, among other things, Internet exchange sites. In addition, the production of a private copy is only permitted if it is for this purpose no copy protection bypassed must become.

When is there a copyright infringement in the film?

If copyrighted works without consent of the respective author are used, there is usually a copyright infringement. In the event of such a violation of copyright in the film, the Use of legal means possible.

The injured party can both civil and criminal measures seize. In order to take action against a copyright infringement, above all the civil law takes place Warning Use. A wide variety of copyright claims can be made through this, such as:

The criminal law provides for copyright infringement Fines or imprisonment in front. Thereby finds a Differentiation between private individuals and businesses instead of. In order to lead to criminal prosecution and legal proceedings in the event of a copyright infringement for the film, an application from the injured author is necessary - a automatic prosecution does not take place.

Copyright Infringement become statute-barred after three years. However, this period does not start on the date of the date, but with Discovery of the violation.

When is the use of third-party works permitted?

The Use of third-party works without consent of the respective author or rights holder is only permitted under certain conditions. Such a special case is in § 24 UrhG as "Free use" listed:

An independent work that has been created in free use of someone else's work may be published and exploited without the consent of the author of the work used.

Free use is when one is already existing work as inspiration serves for the emergence of a new creation. In doing so, creation detaches itself so far from the template that it becomes a independent new creation is to be interpreted.

This rule applies, for example, to Parody, satire and parody. Well-known examples of free use include films such as “Der Schuh des Manitu” and “(T) Raumschiff Surprise” by Michael “Bully” Herbig or television formats such as “Switch reloaded”.

Free use hardly applies to the copyright of music because Section 24 (2) UrhG restricts this. The use of a musical work is not permitted if the Melody recognizable Is the basis of one's own creation.

In addition to free use, the regulation for "Insignificant accessories" the adoption of other people's works in one's own (film) creations. As an accessory, everything is considered to be copyrighted randomly or casually in the video is shown and is actually interchangeable. So it is in that no deeper meaning and there is no added value as a result.

Among other things, the Furniture in a room, the pictures on the walls or an open book on the table as accessories. They thus contribute to the overall picture, but are individually of little importance.

If types of work are used specifically to support the action, it is not an accessory, but rather props. If a book, a picture or a piece of music is to be used as a prop in a film, this is the copyright for the film Right of use necessary.

Copyright in film - short and compact

As the "classic" author of the film, the decides Director about the Exploitation and publication. The copyright for the film extends to the different genera of the medium. In addition to feature films, documentaries, video games, commercials and videos are also protected on YouTube.

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Copyright in film: protection of moving images
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