The concept of copyright is used very unspecifically in general language usage. Nevertheless, copyright law is the oldest legal basis for the protection of intellectual property. It is not an industrial property right in the classical sense, but it is closely related to them. Unlike industrial property rights, copyright law also covers, for example, acts in the private sphere.


A company can never be the creator and thus the author of a protected work, because the work, just like an invention, is the result of individual intellectual work. The author is therefore always a natural person, regardless of age or level of knowledge. However, third parties, i.e. in particular companies, can acquire rights of use in a protected work, for example by concluding a licence agreement or on the basis of employment contract provisions.

Object of protection

The subject of copyright protection can be works of literature, science and art, provided that they are the result of a human creative process, that they have assumed a perceptible form, that they have an individual intellectual content and finally that they reach the necessary level of artistic expression. The criterion of the level of design or creation serves to set a lower limit for protection in order to limit the proliferation of copyright protection, which is considerably longer than that of industrial property rights.

In addition, copyright law in a broader sense also protects certain ancillary copyrights (so-called related rights), which are in any case similar to the author's creative work.

Works in the public domain, i.e. works for which the term of protection has expired and official works are not protected by copyright. In the case of such works, which include, inter alia, legal texts, ordinances and court rulings, there is an overriding public interest in unhindered.


In contrast to industrial property rights, copyright does not only come into existence with the application and entry in a register but already with the creation of the work, i.e. the perceivable result. It is also not a prerequisite for obtaining copyright protection that the work be marked with an author or copyright notice. Since copyright is not a register right, it is advisable to document the circumstances of the creation of the work, e.g. with a view to subsequent enforcement of the law, in a way that is secure in evidence.


The copyright as such is not transferable. Thus, the moral rights, which serve to protect the intellectual and personal relationship of the author to the work, always remain with the author. However, it is possible to grant individual or bundled rights of use and/or exploitation of a work to third parties. The transfer of these rights can take many different forms.

Term of protection

Compared to industrial property rights, copyright law offers a very long period of protection. This usually ends 70 years after the death of the author.