Copyright in the United States and Germany

Below, we’ve provided a brief compa­rison of the German and US American copyright with a main focus on the rights of photo­graphers. Here some simila­rities and some signi­ficant diffe­rences are compared, which may be of interest to photo­graphers if they want to enforce their rights.


United States Germany
Origin The copyright and thus the protection are created by the creation of the work. In the case of a photo, this takes place upon pressing the shutter button on the camera and storing the photo.
Regis­tration Regis­tration with the US Copyright Office is required to enforce claims. For claims of statutory damages compen­sation a timely regis­tration must be carried out. This means before infrin­gement or no later than 3 months after the first publi­cation. [According to the Berne Convention, it applies to foreigners that no regis­tration is required as far as the photo was first published outside the United States.]  There is no regis­tration of copyright.
Warning notice Extra­ju­dicial matters regularly start with a warning notice in which the claims for restraint, infor­mation, damages and destruction are asserted, and a cease and desist decla­ration is demanded.
Statutory damages The statutory damages range from 750.00 — 30,000.00 USD and up to 150,000.00 USD for willful infrin­gement. This only applies to timely regis­tered works, even if foreigners are involved. There are no legally specified amounts for the damages (statutory damages).
Range of compensation The rights holder can choose profits and actual damages or statutory damages if timely regis­tered, else only profits and actual damages. There are 3 ways of damage calculation:
1. License analogy
2. Reimbur­sement of material loss suffered by the injured
3. Infringer profit
Innocent infrin­gement The amount of compen­sation may be reduced to 200.00 USD. Even in the event of a negligent breach, the compen­sation is to be paid at regular height.
Damages in case of willful infringement In case of willful infrin­gement, up to 150,000.00 USD are possible, parti­cu­larly due to the conti­nuation of rights violation despite the knowledge that third party rights are infringed or reckless disregard of the rights. This only applies to timely regis­tered works, even if foreigners are involved. No putative damages are available, unless as a penalty because of violating a decla­ration of cease and desist issued.
Removal or change of copyright notice Additional claims and damages are available, up to 25.000,00 USD per violation, for removal of a false assertion of copyright information. A supplement of 100 percent has to be paid if the infringer has not named the photo­grapher or if he has changed the copyright notice.
Reimbur­sement of costs The attorneys’ fees have to be borne by the losing party for copyright infrin­gement claims if there is timely regis­tration and with claims involving removal of a false assertion of copyright information. The cost of the legitimate warning notice has to be paid by the infringer. In a court case, the losing party shall bear the costs.
Period of protection The period of protection ends 70 years after the death of the photographe.

If you have further questions to enforce your rights because of unaut­ho­rized use of your photos, please contact us and we will advise you. Together with our partner Image­Rights Inc, we can enforce your rights in the United States.