What kind of contents are copyright-protected?

  • All pieces of work (e.g. pictures, texts, charts, graphs, etc.) achieving a (high) level of creativity (also degree of creativity, level of originality) are protected. The term "level of creativity" requires a personal intellectual effort of individual character that clearly stands out of the ordinary, common or usually performed.
  • A piece of work is protected by copyright as soon as it has been created. Even if it is not labelled with "Copyright", "all rights reserved", or ©, you have to assume that it has a copyright protection.

What kind of contents are not protected by copyright?

  • All pieces of work which don't achieve a (high) level of creativity. In our context, these could be for example single pieces of vocabulary as used in everyday life.
    Beware!
    Although the words themselves are not affected by copyright, an ascertained collection of vocabulary could be rated by case-law as worth being copyright-protected for their choice, order and arrangement.
  • Scientific evidence
    Beware!
    Even though scientific knowledge itself is not affected by copyright, its specific account is. That is why you should only quote scientific pieces of work in extracts at the most.
  • Pieces of work released into the public domain referred to as CC0. CC stands for the Creative Commons licensing system, and 0 tells you that the author has resigned all possible property rights.
    Beware!
    There are several Creative Commons licenses. Not all of them allow for implicit use of the respective piece of work or parts of it. The particular licence model has to be exactly respected (cf. "Licenses for free contents").
  • Pieces of work whose author died at least 70 years ago.
  • Official publications of public authorities such as legal Codes, court decisions, or regulations.

Limitations on copyright in an educational environment

Teachers and students at schools and institutions of higher education benefit from copyright privileges. They are legally allowed to disseminate copyright-protected contents such as pictures and charts even without consent under certain conditions.

This applies…

  • if it is only a matter of using parts of a copyright-protected piece of work,
  • if the group of addressees is limited to teachers, pupils, students, or lecturers of a class or seminar group,
  • and if the use of a work bears on the teaching or the lesson.

Related property rights: the right to one's own image

Every person has 'a right to their own image'. This means you are not allowed to publish or disseminate any pictures of people who can be clearly identified without their approval. For the consent to be legally binding, it is best to get it in writing.

There are some exceptions to the right to one's own image. However, if you stick to the basic rule, you will always be on the safe side.