Germany/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.4 Literature and libraries

Article 5.1 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression of opinion and is, therefore, an important legal prerequisite for the development of free and lively literature. Furthermore, this Article stipulates that everybody has the right "to inform him / her unhindered from generally accessible sources". This could be interpreted as a duty for the state and its public facilities, in particular libraries, to provide an "unhindered" access to the literary resources administered by them. However, the right to participate in state services and educational supplies cannot be brought to court.

For a long time, only one of the German states (Baden-Wuerttemberg) had a Library Law which regulates the public provision of suitable facilities. Since August 2008, Thuringia too has a Library Law (without concrete regulations on public funding), two years later, the Länder Hessen and Lower Saxony followed with a similar law. 2014 Rhineland Palatinate passed a library law, in November 2015 the ministry of culture of Schleswig-Holstein presented a draft act. In all other federal states (Länder), the general legal background for public library services is derived from the Federal Constitution (see above), the respective federal states' (Länder) constitutions as well as from regulations existing on the level of counties and other local communities. The discussion about such laws and on acts regulating the support for culture also reached the parliaments of some other federal states (Länder).

On 1 July 2007, the Act on the German National Library came into force with a stretching of the collection on the internet.

The Copyright / Authors' Right Law of 1965 (UrhG) is another legal instrument of importance in the literature and library sector. Among other items, the law regulates the rental, duplication and copying of printed products and media. Article 27 UrhG tries to balance the interests by introducing a public lending right:a library royalty paid by state authorities to authors' societies (VG Wort, GEMA, VG Bild-Kunst), which then compensate the authors as appropriate. For copying machines, Article 54 UrhG foresees a royalty both for the individual machine and for those operators which regularly use them for copying protected works. The VG Wort collects these duties from importers / traders, commercial operators and, as regards the libraries, from the federal states (Länder) (see chapter 5.1.7).

The Law on Fixed Book Prices (BuchPrbG), of 2nd September 2002, is also an important piece of legislation for literature and its dissemination. Publishing companies are obliged to fix the retail prices for their new books. This regulation is meant to safeguard a stable book market and with it a diverse supply structure, from which both the authors and readers should benefit.


Chapter published: 12-09-2016


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