Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe: just a house in the middle of a street....

The Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe (case reference: 6 U 72/12 of 3 June 2013) recently confirmed that domestic premises, such as an apartment building, can attract the copyright protection under German law.

The plan of this rather German-looking
apartment building
The relevant provision in Articles 2 (1) No. 4 and 2 (2) German Copyright Act (Protected works) stipulates as follows: “Protected works in the literary, scientific and artistic domain include, in particular: (...)  Artistic works, including works of architecture and of applied art and drafts of such works; (...) (o)nly the author's own intellectual creations constitute works within the meaning of this Act.”  Article 97 German Copyright Act provides the right to require the cessation of an infringement and the right to damages.

The claimant in the case was a company that planned the apartment building shown above to the right. It sued a third party for an alleged copyright infringement through an unauthorized exploitation of their architectural plans.

In its decision the court confirmed that domestic premises can attract copyright protection, provided the building in question 'stands out' when compared to the majority of buildings.  The necessary level of intellectual creation was reached where the building was characterised by its proportions or its size, its integration into the surrounding plot or surrounding buildings, by the ‘consistent implementation of a motive’ or the structure of individual components such as the façade or roof. Architectural designs, however, that were solely dictated by their intended use did not qualify. In this case, the court found that the necessary level of creativity had not been reached and thus rejected the claim.

>The above case has been unusually widely reported in Germany (see here, here and here). In the UK, the question as to when buildings attract copyright protection is currently only slightly different (please do correct me) with architectural works also being protected as literary works (design drawings and the plans) as well as artistic works (building and the model of the building), provided they are 'original', which is usually the stumbling block.

A trip down memory lane: Our house - in the middle of our street (this Kat is an eighties child...) 
Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe: just a house in the middle of a street.... Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe: just a house in the middle of a street.... Reviewed by Birgit Clark on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Rating: 5


  1. The suggestion that the drawings and plans are literary works is puzzling. Given the plans for the building are drawings (i.e. graphic works) why are the plans not artistic works within section 4(1)(a) of the CDPA?

  2. Now, if it were a Bauhaus in the middle of our street ...


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