Which texts are protected by copyright?

Which texts are protected by copyright?

At the beginning, no one thinks much about the fact that texts as well as photos, which are published, are floating around on the internet and a lot of people have access to them. However, there are certain regulations that must be observed. The whole topic seems very complex at first glance. However, after a closer look at the copyright law, it quickly becomes clear that one's own works are protected by copyright.

Well, nobody has to read and understand the copyright law completely to know which rights you have and which ones you have to pay attention to.

© giphy.com

Copyright - what is it?

Copyright protects the works of an author. In addition, the author can define rights of use and exploitation for other persons. This is often done by means of a license or a mention by name. The copyright to a work does not have to be registered or entered but arises directly after the creation of the work. Say if you create a drawing, a design or a new creation, your work is directly protected by copyright.

Copyright protects:

  • linguistic works (texts, articles)
  • visual or audiovisual works (movies, podcast)
  • works of architecture (architecture)
  • works of visual art (painting, sculpture, graphics)
  • works with scientific or technical content (drawings, plans, maps)

Mere ideas, performances, concepts, or sketches are not protected by copyright - even if they are individual or unique.

For a work to be protected by copyright, it must reach a certain "level of creation". By level of creation is meant that the work has an individual character, is an intellectual creation and is expressed in some form. For copyright protection, however, it does not matter whether the work is particularly valuable, expensive, aesthetic, or meaningful.

Duration of protection

Copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.

It turns out that the duration of copyright is not fixed to a general number of years. Rather, it depends on the age of the author at the time of creation and his/her life expectancy.

Example: If a 20-year-old author writes a novel and reaches the proud age of 97, this work will be protected by copyright for 147 years.

Duration of protection – several authors

If several authors are responsible for the creation of a joint work, this is referred to as co-authorship. The death of the longest-lived author is decisive for the term of protection.



Transfer copyright

In principle, one's own copyrights can be sold, for example, or permitted for certain activities by means of a license. However, the "moral rights", such as the right to be named as author, cannot be transferred. Such a contract would be invalid.

Legally permitted uses as a user

In principle, copyright law is simple:
Permission is required for any use of a copyrighted work!

If you want to use texts, music, films, pictures, photographs, computer games or other works on a website, you need the permission of the author.

Most significant for users is private use: We are all allowed to use published works and performances privately, i.e. in the circle of people with whom we are closely connected, such as family and friends. However, this only includes those closest to us, neither all of our work colleagues nor the 700 friends on Facebook.

Example: You play a recording of a famous singer at home in the presence of your friends. If your friends like the recording, you can make a copy and give it to them. However, if you want to use the recording as background music on your website, you need the permission of the author.

Identifying protected works

But which works are you allowed to use? There are many platforms that offer free works. However, the question arises in which form they may be used. For this reason, informing about the rights is very important to ensure that there is no threat of punishment.

The safest option is to use only works that you have created yourself or for which you have purchased the appropriate license.

© giphy.com

Copyright infringement / penalty

Copyright infringement means trouble and costs. It is mainly the disregard of the rights of use and exploitation. In the best case, you will be contacted exclusively by the copyright holder and asked for removal. However, it can also happen that the author directly demands compensation for damages in a higher sum.

My last words

As you can see, there are some rules to follow. Be careful when using works because big penalties can fall on you!


Livia Wermelinger

mediamatician i.a.

Blog posts on the topic

Your Comment

Whether constructive criticism, questions due to ambiguities or simply a few words of praise – we thank you already for your comment. After a short check we will publish it.


Back to all blog posts

Don't forget. This is what you should keep in mind when creating your new website