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Is it dangerous to take a public domain picture from Wikipedia and use it on your blog or print it on a T-shirt? Last week the  COMMUNIA blog wrote about a copyright case in Germany where several users of public domain pictures received letters from the lawyers of Mannheim’s Reiss-Engelhorn museum. The letters demanded payment for the use of photos of public domain art works that had been uploaded to Wikipedia. The museum justifies this legal action by pointing to the costs of digitizing their artworks and the respective acquisition of some form of ancillary copyright protection for simple photographs (“Lichtbildschutz”, § 72 in the German copyright law). On Wikimedia Commons, the repository that hosts media for Wikipedia, there is already a separate category for “Images subject to Reiss Engelhorn lawsuit”.

screenshot-kategorie-REM-bilder-rechtsstreit

Amongst the several recipients of the letters were not only Wikimedia Germany and the Wikimedia Foundation, but also the online radio station detektor.fm and the non-profit website Musical&Co, which features music-related articles authored by children for children.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sigrid Quack and Leonhard Dobusch comment on the recent developments in the German “Piratenpartei” around the Pirate Party Convention 2012.

With the German Pirate Party continuously rising in national polls – currently ranging between 10 and 13 percent (see Figure below) – media attention on the party’s convention last weekend had reached a new height.

German Election polls

Source: Economist

And this media coverage is increasingly becoming transnational. Germany’s largest weekly Der Spiegel devoted an extensive feature article in English to the phenomenon, trying to explain questions such as “Why the Pirates Are Successful”:

“This is precisely the Pirates’ biggest attraction: transparency and participation, as well as a healthy dose of freshness and otherness. This sometimes makes the Pirates seem childishly naïve and chaotic, and yet they seek to make do without back-room backslapping and conventional political smoothness.”

But also criticsm is voiced in the recent coverage. The Economist, for example, calls Pirates in its recent printed edition  “slightly barmy” and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung published a series of articles on unfortunate comparisons of the Pirate Party’s rise with that of the NSDAP by the secretary of the Berlin Pirate caucus (German article) and some right wingnuts in the party who among other statements denied the Holocaust (German article). Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our guest blogger Moritz Heumer.

The winning streak of the German Pirate Party is continuing with the latest success of entering the Saarland parliament. Recent polls for the national election suggest that the pirates might reach 11 percent of votes. The continued success of the pirates raises doubts about claims of their gains being entirely based on protest voters. What are the supporters of the Pirate Party then voting for? In this blog I will argue that the Pirates are addressing highly topical issues that are not dealt with by other parties. By doing so they appeal to primarily young voters, especially the digital natives. Based on an analysis of the German Pirate Party’s wikis, I was able to trace its links to other actors which are part of a social movement with transnational scope. This social movement is aiming for policy changes in different fields that are connected with issues arising from the digital revolution. The formation of parties is one element of the mobilization repertoire of this movement. The rise and diffusion of Pirate Parties, itself a transnational phenomenon, therefore cannot be  understood without connecting to the frame of reference that was created by other actors who previously dealt with similar issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is the second part of a three-part series on the regulation of securitization before and after the crisis. This part’s topic: The states’ helping hand: finance ministries and the expansion of securitization in the EU.

As I explained in part 1 of this series, securitization required the transfer of credits from banks’ banking books into shell companies, where the cash flows from these credits would be redirected to serve debt instruments that the shell company (or Special-Purpose Entity, SPE) emitted. The banks remained linked to the revenues and risks of these assets by providing liquidity lines to these shell companies in case the market fell dry.

When the crisis in the subprime mortgage market became evident, the buyers of debt instruments emitted by SPEs which had assets on the asset side whose cash flow was seen as deteriorating. Buyers in the market refused to take up the risk, as they could not price it and feared to have to take losses. In this moment, the liquidity lines of banks were drawn, and banks bought the papers from the SPEs they had initially set-up to get rid of these assets.

Now that they ended up refinancing the assets they had sold to the SPE, they in fact became again the owner of these assets, which is why they reappeared on their balance sheets, but only in the worst of moments. The first SPEs which experienced such a buyers strike were those which did not even have a liquidity line and where the buyers were supposed to carry the entire credit risk themselves. Rather than imposing losses on their clients, many banks took the assets they had transferred into the balance sheets of these SPEs (called Structured Investment Vehicles) back on their own books for reputational reasons. Banks argued that they could better cope with the deteriorating value of these assets by holding them to maturity and that imposing losses on their clients would endanger their future financing possibilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wehende Piratenpartei-Flagge Returning to Berlin from the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011 in Warsaw (see live-blogposts on the event), the political landscape of the city has been shaken by a Pirate Party election success. Two years ago, the German Pirate Party won 2 percent in the German federal election (see “Pirate Parties: Transnational mobilization and German elections“). Today, they boarded Berlin’s state parliament with 8.9 percent of the votes and 15 seats (see English Wikipedia). This is the first time the German Pirate Party was able to enter a state parliament, proving that the 2009 election results were not just a flash in the pan.

The dimension of the win was completely unexepected even for the Pirate Party, which is best illustrated by the following fun fact: the Berlin Pirate Party had only nominated 15 candidates for the state-wide election, all of which are now members of the parliament; had the Pirate Party won only one more seat it would not have been able to fill it.

The following Q&A is meant to give some background information to a non-German-speaking audience.

Is the success of the pirate party in Berlin only a regional exception?

Yes and No. Yes, because at least so far the German Pirate Party has only succeeded in urban areas and not at all on the state level –  even in city-states such as Hamburg it had not gotten more than 2.1 percent (see graph below). For now, the dimension of the election success of the Pirate Party in Berlin is a regional peculiarity.

No, because the German Pirate Party is part of a transnational movement critical of the prevalent regime of strong intellectual property rights protection (see, again, “Pirate Parties: Transnational mobilization and German elections“), which manifests in currently 22 official registered and about 25 still unregistered national pirate parties. Read the rest of this entry »

In April this year, broadcasters, collecting societies, and representatives of the music and film industry in Germany publicly announced the foundation of the “Deutsche Content Allianz” (“German Content Alliance”) at a press conference in Berlin:

Member sof the German Content Alliance

Source: Stefan Krempl / heise.de

Harald Heker, CEO of the leading German collecting society GEMA, even praised the initiative as an “important closing of ranks” among rights holders (via heise.de, German only).

Only two months later, this coalition exhibits some severe cracks. And the reason for these cracks is the extensive blocking of YouTube videos demanded by GEMA – something we have repeatedly discussed on this blog (see, for example, “Viral Web Videos and Blocked Talent” and, most recently, “Art Across Borders“). Originally, blocked videos only delivered a page stating that the video was not available “in your country” and referring to the rights holder – the latter mostly being one of the leading media corporations such as Universal, Warner or Sony. Read the rest of this entry »

Markus Beckedahl, blogger, digital rights activist and one of the representatives of Creative Commons Germany, inspired a raging controversy within the German blogosphere with the following simple statement:

“Anyone, who actively uses the Internet and shows media literacy, constantly infringes copyright.”
(German original: “Jeder, der das Internet aktiv nutzt und Medienkompetenz zeigt, begeht die ganze Zeit Urheberrechtsverletzungen.”)

David Ziegelmayer, lawyer at CMS Hasche Sigle, immediately cast doubt whether Beckedahl were serious and admits to be swept off his feet by that statement. He claims that, on the contrary, uneducated users are responsible for copyright infringments such as unauthorized copying of pictures and texts, not the media literate ones.

Simon Möller, law blogger at Telemedicus, however supports Beckedahl’s claim and gives the following five examples:

  1. Commented links in blogs: the media literate blogger copies passages of texts, includes the links and a short comment. such a behavior is not covered by the citation exemption of copyright due to the unqeual ratio between cited text and comment.
  2. Embedding videos in blogs, since this would often require a license.
  3. Using ID pictures:  the rights for publishing ID pictures online is normally not acquired from the photographer.
  4. Unclear terms in open content licenses such as, for example, the Creative Commons NonCommercial clause (see also “Standardizing via Polling” on this blog).
  5. Using cloud services, which are not necessarily covered by extant copyright exemptions, at least in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

The impact of copyright regulation on economic development in general and innovation in particular is not the primary topic discussed in this blog, even though it is the issue that feeds most of the current conflicts about copyright regulation. In last week’s issue, the German magazine “Der Spiegel” published a feature entitled “Explosion of Knowledge” (German article). The article is more or less a synopsis of the comprehensive, two-volume and over 860 pages strong “Geschichte und Wesen des Urheberrechts” (“History and Essence of Copyright”) by Eckhard Höffner, historian based in Munich. Why does a general interest magazine like “Der Spiegel” feature a book on copyright in 19th century Germany? Obviously, the reason are implications for ongoing debates on copyright legislation and its impact on economic development, or, as stated in the article’s subheadline:

Has Germany’s industrial rise in the 19th century happened because the country did not have copyright?

Following Höffner, Wolfgang Menzel’s famous dictum of Germany as a nation of “poets and thinkers” (“Dichter und Denker“) did not so much refer to prominent German writers such as Goethe or Schiller, but rather to Germany as a whole. Compared to England, where the Statute of Anne had introduced the first “modern” copyright in 1710, 19th century Germany produced more books, written by more authors, distributed to more readers. In 1843 over 14.000 different titles – a majority being non-fiction books – were printed in Germany compared to only about 1.000 titles printed in England. The main reason, according to Höffner, was weak copyright enforcement due to Germany’s small-statism. Read the rest of this entry »

While around the globe copyright critics advocate the adoption of Creative Commons licenses as a way for enabling remix and non-commercial file-sharing, in Europe a second solution is debated more and more intensively: a so-called “culture flat rate”. Internet users should be mandated to pay a fixed amount per month and in return be allowed to non-commercially remix and share copyrighted files. Of course, differently to the private regulation approach of Creative Commons, such a “culture tax” would require legislative changes.

Technically, most countries already have a minor form of such a culture tax called private copying levies: a special tax or levy is charged on purchases of recordable media – in some cases also on recording or copying devices – and then redistributed to rights holders via copyright collectives. Regularly copying levies are justified as being a compensation for limitations and exceptions to copyright such as the right to make a private copy (see, for example, the US Audio Home Recording Act).

Compared to other aspects of copyright regulation, which are increasingly harmonized across jurisdictions in the course of international treaties such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, copying levies still vary significantly from country to country – both in terms of the types of devices and recordable media covered and in terms of levy levels. And these differences are far from being diminished, as recent developments in the neighbouring countries Germany and Austria illustrate: while in Germany the Association of Computer Manufacturers and a consortium of different collecting societies agreed on a new copying levy on any computer with a recording device (German press release), the Austrian supreme court of justice ruled against a similar levy (Austrian supreme court ruling, German).

In his contribution (PDF) to last year’s Free Culture Research Workshop at Harvard’s Berkman Center, the German media sociologist and activist Volker Grassmuck, argues in favor of a “Culture Flat-Rate to end copyright extremism and bring information freedom and remuneration for authors to the Internet.” He describes the model as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Not so long ago I asked in this blog: “Is Google News Piracy?” when the European Publisher Council (EPC) as well as the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and many of their member organizations signed the “Hamburg Declaration on Intellectual Property Rights” (see list of signatories), which bemoans too little protection and compensation of online content.

Several months of lobbying from major media corporations such as the Axel Springer AG (publisher of the largest German boulevard paper “Bild“) or Burda and one federal election later, Germany seems to end up answering this question with “yes”. The new conservative German government plans to quickly introduce a new ancillary copyright bill, which shall protect publishers of being “expropriated” by new online news services, as Hubert Burda put it (German). According to Christoph Keese, chief lobbyist of Axel Springer, and Christoph Fiedler from VDZ, the umbrella organisation of German Magazine Publishers, this new legislation shall eventually lead to the formation of a new copyright collective for publishers and journalists (see the German video of a recent debate in Berlin).

As only little is known so far about the details in the upcoming bill, speculations regarding potential consequences of such an ancillary copyright spread. The Austrian IT-news portal futurezone, for example, paints the picture of upcoming “linking crimes” (“Link-Verbrechen”) and fears “worsenings for researchers, bloggers and journalists.” And while it seems pretty clear that publishing houses will profit most from the new ancillary copyright, the question “who pays the bill?” is still open for debate.

But the best summary of the current situation is again – for another example, see “Google Books and the Kindle Controversy” – provided by Scott Adam’s Dilbert, who needs only three small boxes to tell more than my entire description above did:

Dilbert.com

[update:]

Very interesting in this regard is a plenary session at the “Monaco Media Forum” featuring Arianna Huffington, founder of the news website Huffington Post, and Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the German Axel Springer AG:

Especially interesting is the part after about 17 minutes when Döpfner starts talking about “web communism”:

“I think this theory that only a free access to information is, I have to admit, one of the most absurd theories that I have heard. It is a very late ideological outcome of web communists.”

At this point Arianna Huffington jumps in with the question:

“Is Chris Anderson in the room?”

His book is called “Free. The Economics of Abundance and Why Zero Pricing Is Changing the Face of Business”. It is available for free online, as a PDF as well as an audio book (285MB).

(leonhard)

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
August 2017
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