Hundreds of German authors, musicians and artists have begun a campaign to defend copyright in the digital age. Their critique focuses on Germany's upstart Pirate Party which favors legalized file-sharing.
Copyright advocates, including authors Günter Grass and Charlotte Roche, and Rammstein's lead singer Till Lindemann, say they are experiencing a public onslaught against copyright which is supposed to guarantee them an existential livelihood from individual creativity.
The Berlin-based campaign network calling itself "We Are the Creators" says that ownership of literary works as well as graphic and musical compositions is a "historical achievement" derived from civil liberties that emerged during the centuries-old fight against "feudal dependency."
"The new realities of digitalization and the internet are no reason to justify the profane theft of intellectual property," say the signatories on a dedicated page of Thursday's Die Zeit weekly newspaper.
They also defend their long-standing collaborations with publishing houses and performing-rights associations, which in Germany collect usage fees on behalf of creators, saying this "division of labor" is necessary to market artists' works to readers, listeners and viewers.
Pirate Party in firing line
The current international debate on copyright versus free usage has focused in Germany on the rise of the Pirates Party, which since September has won regional parliamentary seats in three states - Berlin, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein last Sunday. Surveys suggest pickings as well in next Sunday's poll in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's western and most populous state.
Responding on Thursday, a Pirate Party copyright expert, Christopher Lauer, said: "No matter how much we reject what has been published in Die Zeit, we have to take it seriously."
A spokesman for Germany's Chaos Computer Club, Frank Rieger, wrote in a social network message that the situation was due to failings of major online distributors and marketers such as Apple, Amazon and Google.
One of Germany's copyright usage associations, VG Wort, a trust founded in 1958 to collect fees on behalf of authors and publishing houses, issued its own assessment on Thursday, reiterating that usage without permission is not allowed.
"Re-working and other changes to creative works also require the permission of the original creator," VG Wort said.
"The digital world must stick to this principle, " said the association, adding that it opposes the trend toward "fair use" as practiced in America. "This leads to substantial legal uncertainty."
VG Wort says copying for private purposes is legal but only on the assumption that the creator receives appropriate recompense. To do this, VG Wort has long collected fees from producers and sellers of photocopiers and other reproduction equipment and says the emerging practice of "cloud computing" necessitates further policy development.
On Tuesday, copyright lawyers meeting in Leipzig had called for a reform of European copyright laws. The goal, they said, must be to protect creators and producers while decriminalizing users accused of copyright breaches.
ipj/ng (dpa, AFP)