Commentary on:
Saxon Copyright Act (1844)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: d_1844


Commentary on the Saxonian Copyright Act of 1844

Friedemann Kawohl

Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on the Saxonian Copyright Act of 1844', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Reciprocity provisions in the Saxon copyright Act of 1844

4. References


1. Full title

Saxon Law on the protection of rights to literary products and works of art; promulgated on 22 February 1844.


2. Abstract

The Act of 1844 replaced all earlier Saxon statutes and decrees on copyright. Because of Leipzig's importance as a trading and printing centre, Saxonian copyright legislation was relevant to many German authors, publishers and booksellers. The strong bearing of publishers on Saxon legislation can be seen from the reciprocity provisions that helped to strengthen the predominant position of local publishers and printers. The Saxon Copyright Act was not as modern[1] as the Prussian Act of 1837 and was to serve the needs of publishers and the book industry, rather than establishing general authors' rights for writers, composers and artists. The Federal Resolution of 1837 (d_1837b) was implemented in the 1844 Act, but not the performance rights directive of 1841 (Bundesbeschluß vom 22. April 1841), although the latter had officially come into force after its publication in the Saxon Code of Law.[2] The traditional registration formalities (cf. d_1773) were retained and the title refers to "literary products" (literarische Erzeugnisse), thus avoiding the modern, abstract term of "works" which could encompass different forms of exploitation. The commentary focusses on the sophisticated Saxon reciprocity provisions.


3. Reciprocity provisions in the Saxon copyright Act of 1844

The Saxon Copyright Act of 1844 included two fields of regulation that were characteristic for copyright policy in Saxony at the time: the reciprocity provisions specified in § 11-13 and the registration formalities specified in § 14 and in the explanatory ordinance.


Saxon copyright was in principle bestowed to both native and foreign authors (and their legal successors). However, the copyrights of foreigners were restricted by different reciprocity provisions.


For a foreigner from another member state of the German Confederation, the copyright term was restricted to the term for which the respective foreigner was protected in his home country (the Saxon Act provided 30 years p.m.a., while the Federal Resolution of 1837 had only set 10 years after publication as a minimum). Foreigners from outside the German Confederation could only exercise their copyright in Saxony after they had proven that their home state did grant reciprocal protection and only to the same extent to which Saxon subjects would be protected in the respective foreign countries.[3]


Thus many foreigners from inside and outside the Confederation were not granted full Saxon copyright for works that were published outside Saxony. But when a foreign author or publisher transferred his copyright to a Saxon publisher, and the work was published in Saxony, then the legal successor was entitled to the enjoyment of full Saxon copyright.


In addition to that, full Saxon copyright protection was provided for legal successors who had acquired their copyright from a Saxon subject, e.g. a Württemberg publisher who had bought a regional licence for his home market from a Saxon publisher was fully protected for that work in Saxony.


Moreover, a foreign publisher enjoyed full Saxon copyright when he cooperated with a Saxon partner, who then had to file any claims at the Saxon courts if the jointly undertaken publication was reprinted or offered for sale on Saxonian territory. The latter provisions did help the business of local Saxon printing shops, though they were mainly thought to strengthen the predominant position held by the Saxon publishers. The requirement to have the works printed in Saxony was added in order not to allow

"foreign publishers to secure for themselves, contrary to the purpose of this law, legal protection for their possibly excessively expensive publications, which would be out of reach for the public, by perhaps just sending a few copies of these to their commission agents here, without any real hope or intention of actually getting them sold."[4]

For Saxon copyright, what was relevant was therefore not the place of origin of the work or the author's native land, but rather the state where the relevant copyright (Verlagsrecht, i.e. ‘publishing right') had been alienated. If such copyright was transferred once from a Saxon or a foreign author to a Saxon publisher, the work was fully protected, even after the Saxon publisher had sold his copyright abroad.


4. References

Dölemeyer, B. and Klippel, D., "Theorie des gewerblichen Rechtsschutzes und Urheberrechts", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland, ed. by F.-K. Beier, A. Kraft, G. Schricker and E. Wadle, vol. 1 (Weinheim: VCH 1991) 

Meinert, F.W., Das königlich-sächsische Gesetz vom 22. Februar 1844 zum Schutz der Rechte an literarischen Erzeugnissen und Werken der Kunst mit kritisch-exegetischen Erläuterungen (Leipzig: Teubner, 1844) 

Wächter, O., Das Verlagsrecht (Stuttgart: Cotta 1857)

[1] On the concept of "modern" copyright in the nineteenth century, see the commentary on d_1837a. The Saxon Act did explicitly exclude any moral rights (or "Persönlichkeitsrechte" as German law now puts it). A contemporary commentary on the 1844 Act explicitly stated that it was not advisable to have provisions for both financial and moral aspects in the same statute, and, moreover, that a statutory protection of the "intellectual interest" was not even necessary at the moment. ("daß die Sicherung beider obenerwähnten Interessen in einem und demselben Gesetz nicht räthlich, ein gesetzlicher Schutz der intellektuellen Interessen aber zur Zeit nicht einmal nöthig ist." Franz Wilhelm Meinert, Das königlich-sächsische Gesetz vom 22. Februar 1844 zum Schutz der Rechte an literarischen Erzeugnissen und Werken der Kunst mit kritisch-exegetischen Erläuterungen (Leipzig: Teubner, 1844), here quoted from Barbara Dölemeyer and Diethelm Klippel, "Theorie des gewerblichen Rechtsschutzes und Urheberrechts", in Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht in Deutschland, ed. by Friedrich-Karl Beier, Alfons Kraft, Gerhard Schricker and Elmar Wadle (Weinheim: VCH 1991), 1: 208.

[2] Verordnung vom 29 Juni 1841, in Gesetzes- und Verordnungsblatt für das Königreich Sachsen (1841), 67.

[3] In an amendment of 30 July, 1855, it was specified, that "the legal protection provided for foreigners will not come into force before the statute of the non-German state, or the treaty, bringing about the reciprocity, is made public to our subjects by an ordinance  of the Ministry of the Interior ("der Ausländern zugesicherte Rechstsschutz tritt erst dann in Wirksamkeit, wenn das Gesetz des nichtdeutschen Staats, oder der Vertrag, wodurch die Reciprocität herbeigeführt wird, durch Verordnung des Ministeriums des Innern den diesseitigen Staatsangehörigen bekannt gemacht wird"). From the Saxonian Copyright Act of 30 July, 1855, § 1., quoted in Oscar von Wächter, Das Verlagsrecht (Stuttgart: Cotta 1857), 43. (See d_1857).

[4] "auswärtige Verleger, gegen den Sinn dieses Gesetzes, sich einen Rechtsschutz für ihre vielleicht übermäßig theuren und dem Publicum daher unzugänglichen Verlagsartikel dadurch sichern sollen, daß sie vielleicht nur wenige Exemplare ohne alle Hoffnung und Absicht eines wirklichen Absatzes hiesigen Commissionären zusenden", in Mittheilungen über die Verhandlungen der II. Sächsischen Kammer von 1834, 1: 1114. Here quoted from Wächter (1857), 1: 412.

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