The new Copyright Act for the knowledge-based society (Urheberrechts-Wissensgesellschafts-Gesetz - UrhWissG)

What has changed since March 2018?

The revision of the Copyright Act for the knowledge-based society, the Urheberrechts-Wissensgesellschafts-Gesetz (UrhWissG) was issued in 2017 and came into effect on the 01.03.2018. It redefines the legally compliant handling of copyrighted material in education and research. With the help of simple and clear rules, lecturers are able to define which external works are accessible to their students. It is also ensured that the authors receive adequate remuneration for their works.

Furthermore, the act explicitly excludes itemized billing with copyright collecting societies like the VG Wort which is one of the central requirements of teaching at the university.

In the named act there is now a new section, 60 et seq. UrhG, which regulates the use in research and teaching. The old section, 52a UrhG and other regulations are omitted. The most important aspects of the new section 60 et seq. UrhG in a nutshell are the following:

  • Section 60a UrhG allows the usage of parts of up to 15% of a copyrighted work for education and teaching at universities. This applies to both teaching during the semester and its preparation and follow-up.

    Small works such as pieces of music and movies < 5 minutes running time, sheets of music with < 6 pages and other smaller works < 25 pages can be used entirely. This also applies to works that are out-of-print.

    Complete articles can also be used entirely, although only if they are from scientific and professional journals. For articles from the daily press only the general 15% regulation applies, which is mentioned above.

    These regulations allow both the digital provision and the use in lecture halls.

    With this section, the circle of users was extended. Now it includes lecturers and participants of the respective course, lecturers and examiners of the same university as well as third parties if this serves the presentation of classes and/or the results of teaching and learning at the university.

    Another new aspect is the fact that the named regulations now also apply to schoolbooks if they are used outside of schools.

  • According to section 60c UrhG, it is also allowed to use up to 75% of an entire work for own scientific research. The non-commercial scientific research may duplicate 15% of a work.

  • For the first time scientific research methods that use automated evaluation (so called text- and data-mining) are regulated by section §60d UrhG.

  • The regulations for libraries are noted in section 60e UrhG. As well as exhibitions, rentals and the duplication of works by users are defined. For example, up to 10% of duplications are allowed to be forwarded to users when they order them for non-commercial use.

  • Sections 60g-h UrhG regulate the appropriate remuneration of authors. There is no need of tedious individual billing for every usage due to an all-inclusive remuneration of the copyright collecting societies.

  • It is not allowed to limit or forbid the usage of affected works (as stated in section 60 UrhG) for the disadvantage of authorized users through contractual regulations. However, regulations in contracts that were concluded before the 1st of March, 2018 remain valid.


  • (Source: BMJV)


If you follow this link you can download a handout in German regarding the new act for copyrighted material for the knowledge-based society (Urheberrechts-Wissensgesellschafts-Gesetz - UrhWissG)


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