How are rights protected in the USA


Sebastian Deterding, Philipp Otto Update: Valie Djordjevic

Comparison of two dissimilar brothers

There are two legal traditions around the world for the protection of intellectual creations: continental European copyright and Anglo-American copyright. In everyday language, the terms are often used interchangeably, but they differ fundamentally in their approach.

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Copyright, as it applies today in Germany, France and Switzerland and has partly been incorporated into EU law, protects the author. The humanistic and individualistic ideas of the French Revolution (1789-1799) can be found in copyright law, in the course of which the first modern copyright law was formulated in France.

The principle of copyright law is that the work, as the intellectual and creative expression of the author, is inextricably linked to his person. Therefore, the author can never completely surrender his rights to this work. He can only grant others a license to use his work in a certain way.

In addition, the copyright law takes care of the economic interests of the author: He should get a fair wage for his work. However, his rights are limited by a number of barriers designed to ensure that the general public can participate in his work, for example in education and research.

Copyright, on the other hand, goes back historically - to the English Statute of Anne of 1709. Copyright is a "exploitation right": Its basic idea is to promote public education and the circulation of knowledge by the exploiters - i.e. the printers or publishers - receive an exclusive right to reproduce a particular work for a while. Publishers are supposed to be protected from others reprinting manuscripts for which they have paid a lot of money. Copyright protects the investment a publisher has put into printing and producing a book.

In practice, this is expressed specifically in such a way that in countries in which the copyright applies, authors in their contracts can assign all rights to their works to a publisher or client.

In the meantime, international treaties have harmonized intellectual property rights to such an extent that the differences between copyright and copyright are becoming smaller and smaller. However, there are still differences in details, such as the limits of copyright law - for example "fair use" in the USA and private copying and quotation law in Germany.

The copyright symbol © (a C with a circle around it) comes from the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Until 1989, you had to register a work in the USA in order for it to be protected by copyright. The © served as a sign that this had happened. In the meantime, the © is actually superfluous, because copyright protection on a work arises automatically with creation in the USA too. However, it is still used to name the author or rights holder.