Information for Students on the Use of Copyright-Protected Texts used in Teaching (§52a UrhG)

Current Developments!!!


Effective: December 23th 2016

Official moratorium on the current copyright regulations until 30 September 2017

press release from KMK and VG Wort


Effective: December 21th 2016

Consensus with VG-Wort regarding §52a UrhG still possible

Just in time, the Culture Ministers' Conference (KMK), German Rectors' Conference (HRK) and VG Wort fortunately came to the agreement that the fixed fee regulation demanded by VG-Wort according to § 52a UrhG, should be continued until September 30, 2017. By then a national mutual solution regarding the compensation of entitlement under copyright law should be worked out.

Pursuant to this, copyright-protected texts according to § 52a UrhG can be made accessible in ILIAS beyond the turn of the year 2016/2017 after all. Book excerpts and magazine articles which have already been made available may remain accessible till the end of the winter semester. New text material may continue to be made accessible to the extent permitted.


In a press release on December 9, 2016, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK) and VG-Wort declared that a common consensus for the use of digital tools such as Ilias, should be reached.

The German Rectors’ Conference, the Conference of Education Ministers and VG Wort commonly declare:

The three partners will assign a common committee to develop a mutual solution for dealing with copyright law in the context of university teaching. (…)

The committee will present a mutual proposal punctually before the end of 2016. The partners want to enable uninterrupted, continuous use of digital tools at German universities into the year 2017.

In addition, and in consideration of the Federal Court decision of March 20, 2013, they want to implement a practicable solution at German universities by September 30, 2017.


The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), as well as the Rectors‘ Conference of Baden-Württemberg (LRK) have decided against entering VG Wort‘s new general agreement.

The copyright law (§52a UrhG) permits university instructors, to make copyright-protected texts (especially periodical articles and book extracts) available to students in their courses in a password-protected field (during the course of an ongoing semester) to a limited extent. This is permitted without the authors’ or publishers’ permission. At the University of Stuttgart, ILIAS is the main teaching platform used. The states pay a fixed fee to VG-Wort (Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort), which in turn passes the payments on to the copyright owners.

New General Agreement between KMK and VG-Wort

In two lawsuits, which were decided by the Federal Court (BGH) in the final instance in 2013, VG-Wort (against the states of the Federal Republic of Germany) and the Kröner Verlag (publisher against the Fernuni Hagen) pushed through that the use of texts must be individually verified and paid for, albeit for far lower prices than what the publishers imagined.

Following the decisions of the Federal Court, the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK) and VG-Wort made a new general agreement which individual universities could enter into and which would be valid as of January 1, 2017. In contrast to the former fixed fee billing, this agreement requires individual proof, individual fees and the audit rights of VG-Wort in the universities’ IT-infrastructure.

A pilot study carried out by the University of Osnabrück under the conditions of the new agreement showed a 75% decrease in the number of texts made available to students. The university’s administrative and personnel costs were very high: they were more than four times higher than the resulting license fees.

The German Rectors’ Conference criticizes the conditions of the general agreement as impracticable and the State Rectors’ Conference (LRK) Baden-Württemberg, as well as most of the State Rectors’ Conferences in Germany have expressed their refusal to enter into the agreement. In a meeting on November 22, 2016, the Rectorate of the University of Stuttgart also decided not to enter into the agreement.

Materials which can be used in any case

Independent of its content, the new regulation refers only to copyright-protected texts, typically single book chapters and articles taken from scientific periodicals. Not included are quotations, illustrations in lecture scripts or slides (with reference to the source), individually created scripts, Open-Access publications, Open Educational resources, texts with a Creative Commons license and works by authors who have been deceased for more than 70 years. This data can, as usual, be made available.
In addition, those works which are not texts are not affected: pictures, film clips, excerpts of musical recordings, etc. These may still be used in accordance with
§ 52a UrhG because the affected licensing companies have fixed fee regulations.

What remains unchanged is the fact that copyright-protected teaching material (not only texts) must be made inaccessible at the end of each semester.


We will answer any questions on this issue at: