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 StatesGermany
OriginThe 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.
RegistrationRegistration 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 noticeExtrajudicial 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 compensationThe 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 infringementIn 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 noticeAdditional 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 costsThe 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 protectionThe 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.