The following FAQ is meant to be an orientation in everyday situations. You can find the legal basis in the link section.



What is protected?

„Works“ are protected, i. e. personal intellectual creations.

This includes literary works, such as books, articles, speeches, lectures, exams, scientific papers, commentaries, poems or lyrics, but also computer programmes, music, photographic works, videos and illustrations of a scientific or technical nature (such as drawings, plans, maps, sketches, and tables) and three-dimensional representations. The protection of a work starts with its creation and ends 70 years after the author's death.

Where can I read the legal basis?

There are two German laws (full text available in the right-hand column):

Gesetz über Urheberrecht und verwandte Schutzrechte (Urheberrechtsgesetz)

Gesetz vom 09.09.1965 (BGBl. I,  S. 1273) das zuletzt durch Art. 1 des Gesetzes vom 01.09.2017 (BGBl. I S. 3346) geändert worden ist

  • § 51 UrhG: Zitatrecht
  • § 53 UrhG: Vervielfältigungen zum privaten und sonstigen eigenen Gebrauch
  • § 60a ff. UrhG: Gesetzlich erlaubte Nutzungen für Unterricht, Wissenschaft und Institutionen


Gesetz betreffend das Urheberrecht an Werken der bildenden Künste und der Photographie

kurz: Kunsturheberrechtsgesetz (KUG)
Gesetz vom 09.01.1907 (BGBl. III, Gliederungsnummer 440-3), zuletzt geändert durch Gesetz vom 16.02.2001 (BGBl. I S. 266)

Can I use works without the author's consent?

  • if the author has transferred the rights of use to the public (e. g. Creative Commons license, General Public license)
  • according to the copyright limitation provision of §§ 44a et seq. of Urheberrechtsgesetz
  • if the work is in the public domain. This applies to official works, e. g. laws, and works of authors who have died more than 70 years ago.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is intellectual theft, i. e. complete or partial borrowing of someone else's literary, musical, artistic or academic work with no or little changes to it and without giving credit to the creator.

There is a difference between witting and unwitting plagiarism. However, the degree of violation of copyright law can be the same in both cases.

Who is responsible for copyright observance?

Responsibility always rests with the end user, not with the provider (e. g. the library) of protected works.

What is the difference between „Privater Gebrauch“, „Sonstiger eigener Gebrauch“ and „Wissenschaftlicher Gebrauch“?

  • Privater Gebrauch“ / private use: use in private life to meet exclusively personal needs of an individual or individuals personally bonded with the former. This applies to everything happening in a domestic environment or within the circle of friends. There is no restriction on intention of use, i. e. the copy may also be for commercial purposes.
  • Sonstiger eigener Gebrauch“ / other personal use: This term is broader than private use in that it covers not only the meeting of personal needs but also professional and commercial use.
  • Wissenschaftlicher Gebrauch“ / scholarly use: as part of scholarly activity, e. g. when writing an academic paper.

Whom may I contact for any questions I might have?

Good to know for stu­dents

Am I allowed to copy journal articles or book chapters?

  • private use: printed or digital copies are allowed as long as they do not pursue a direct or indirect economic gain (§ 53 Abs. 1 UrhG (Privatkopieschranke). § 53 Abs. 6 applies: These copies may not be distributed or used for public display. The law does not differentiate between methods of copying.
    Please note: Only natural persons are allowed to create copies for private use.
  • own scholarly use (e. g. for writing an academic paper): you can create printed or digital copies of up to 75 % of a work if it is for non-commercial research.
    Please note: no usage by several students and no transfer to a third party.
  • other personal use: individual parts of a work may be copied if these parts are small or individual articles within newspapers or journals, or if the work has been out of print for more than two years. Only analogue usage is permitted, i. e. only printed copies are allowed. There is no restriction on purpose of use, i. e. the copy may be for commercial use.

Am I allowed to copy whole books or journal issues?

  • private and other personal use: a private copy without the author's consent is only allowed for non-commercial purpose and if the copy template has not been created or provided illegally. Complete copies are allowed if the work is
    a) in the public domain (i. e. the author has died at least 70 years ago)
    b) not available for sale in the book market for at least two years, i. e. the publisher does not sell it anymore, or
    c) if the work will be part of a private archive and the copy template has been a own piece of work (under the conditions provided by § 53 II 1 UrhG). 
    However, complete copies are allowed if they are handwritten or typed (§ 53 Abs. 4 UrhG).
  • for teaching and education (§ 60a UrhGand own scholarly use (§ 60c UrhG): A complete copy of a book can be created if the work is
    a) in the public domain
    b) not available for sale in the book market (no restrictions on length of time)
    c) a small work (for books: up to 25 pages are small works)

How much of a book's content can be scanned?

  • private use: complete copies of a legimitate copy template are allowed (§ 53 Abs. 1 UrhG) as long as they do not pursue a direct or indirect economic gain.
  • own scholarly use (e. g. for writing an academic paper): you can create printed or digital copies of up to 75 % of a work if it is for non-commercial research (§ 60c UrhG).
    Please note: no usage by several students and no transfer to a third party.
  • other personal use: only analogue usage is permitted, i. e. scans are not allowed (§ 53 Abs. 3 S. 1 Nr. 4 and S. 2 Nr. 2 UrhG).

Am I allowed to print or save whole e-books?

Depending on the publisher, e-books can be downloaded as a whole or in separate chapters. If a publisher does not provide links for complete download, it ist not permitted to download whole or essentially whole e-books.

E-books or parts of them may not be transmitted to third persons, neither electronically nor printed.

Please note: If a e-book is DRM-protected to limit printing, copying or downloading, this protection must not be removed or bypassed.

Are students from other universities or external library users (walk-in-users) allowed to download e-books?

No, they are not. Only HNU members may download e-books or parts of e-books. Everyone else can read the e-books at the research stations in the library entrance hall and may print small parts of an e-book. Electronic data, however, must not leave the library.

Am I allowed to use pictures from printed books, journals or e-media for my scholarly work?

Photographies, pictures and depictions are treated as protected works. Regardless of whether you want to use them completely or partially and regardless of whether you scan or redraw them: use is only permitted within the copyright limitation provision of § 51 of Urheberrechtsgesetz or within limitations of §§ 60a, 60c UrhG or with the author's consent or, if it is a depiction of a person, the depicted person's consent.

For more information, see §§ 51, 60a, 60c of UrhG.

Are theses protected works?

Yes, they are. Thus, no one can use it without the author's permission. This also applies if a member of the teaching staff has assisted the author in writing the thesis: they are not considered co-authors.

Can I share or record online content (Zoom sessions, Moodle courses)?

Sharing: Online content, both presentations of teachers and contributions of participants, is protected by copyright. Thus you are not allowed to share these contents or the corresponding registration keys or passwords. Violations are liable to prosecution and may result in indemnity and injunctive relieves. 

Recording: Audio or video recording is only permitted with explicit consent of all participants. If that is not the case you may only write your own transcript. Violations are liable to prosecution and may result in indemnity and injunctive relieves. 

Good to know for teach­ing staff

Am I allowed to make copies from books/articles for students?

This is allowed within the framework of § 60 a UrhG.

Am I allowed to hand out accompanying course material at the start of the semester if students pay the print costs?

This is allowed if the students ordered the copies. It is not considered a copyright violation and is legal according to § 53 Abs. 1 S. 1 + Abs. 2 UrhG.

Can I use photos, pictures and graphics in my lecture notes?

Photos, pictures and graphics are protected by copyright, so usage is only allowed with the author's consent according to the license agreemengt (e. g. Creative Commons License) or within the limitations of §§ 51, 60a, 60c UrhG and § 22 KUG.

§ 60a Abs. 2 and § 60c Abs. 2 UrhG define the following restrictions:

  • for visualization of a topic, i. e. intellectual discussion of the picture, not just for the purpose of illustration!
  • no modifications of the picture
  • source must be given
  • for noncommercial purposes
  • access is restricted to a defined number of people, i. e. access only via e-learning course with access key.

Am I allowed to use non-licensed pictures as decoration in my lecture notes and upload them?

No - using pictures as mere decoration is not within the limitations of § 60a UrhG, therefore this is considered copyright infringement! Pictures may only be used for visualisation, i. e. they must be used to make the topic more understandable.

Can I show a movie or an episode of a series in my course without a license agreement?

No - you must not show a whole movie or a whole episode. This is copyright infringement! However, according to § 60a Abs. 2 UrhG, you are allowed to show a small section (max. 5 minutes).

Can I create copies of CDs/DVDs?

CDs and DVDs are protected by copyright law and must not be copied. Circumvention of copy protection is illegal.

Are lectures protected by copyright?

In general, contents of a lecture are not protected (i. e. scientific facts, established theories etc.). However, the manner of presenting these facts, i. e. structure and train of thought of a lecture, are protected by copyright (individuality and intellectual creation).

Can I record or share contents of Zoom sessions?

No audio/visual recording of any lecture, presentation, seminar, interaction without explicit permission.

All of the material, i. e. the lecturer’s and also the students work, is protected by copyright (individuality and intellectual creation).

Can I create and publish lecture notes with correct quotes of other authors and intellectual discussion of these quotes?

This is legal within the limitations in §§ 51 and 60a UrhG.

Which works can be used as Electronic Course Reserves (ESA)?

Electronic course reserves may contain texts relevant for the respective course. These texts do not have to be part of the collection of the library, i. e. you can scan and provide texts you obtained via interlibrary loan. Concerning the percentage of scanned material, you need to stay within the limitations of § 60 a UrhG (i. e. max. 15 % of a work; but the total amount of pictures, small works of a trade journal or an academic journal, other small works and works which are out of print).

Articles in newspapers and similar magazines must not be provided wholly, you can only provide 15 % of these articles.

Electronic course reserves may also contain links if these links do not bypass any blocking systems. This means you can link to an e-book within the collection of the library or to any open access publication.

How are references in educational videos supplemented?

According to § 63 UrhG the source must always be clearly indicated:

A complete bibliography in the credits meets the requirements - provided that short source information is already given in the video and the exact source can be identified by clear attribution.
The user can pause the video during the credits, so that the bibliography is visible for as long as desired. Due to the "pause function", an insertion of 5-10 seconds is sufficient. With a short intro, the bibliography at the end can also be referred to.

May the complete scan of a work be set in ESA if the scan components originate from different editions of a work?

No. Different editions are not necessarily different works, they are still the same work, as the editions do not usually differ so significantly that a completely new creation can be assumed. For this reason, according to § 60a UrhG, only 15% may be made available within the framework of the Elec­tronic Course Re­serves (ESA).