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German copyright law or Deutsches Urheberrecht is a " droit d'auteur " style law. As such there is a special emphasis on the relation between the work and its actual author. There is no corporate copyright in Germany and the fundamental rights cannot be transferred except by heritage . However, exclusive licenses are almost as powerful as copyright transfer (and, according to the law, such an exclusive license is given to the employer automatically if the work contract does not make a different arrangement). A significant difference is that licenses can only extend to known uses of the work, so if somebody submitted a scientific paper to a journal before the internet was a known use for them (1995 is usually assumed as a key date), the journal arguably did not obtain the rights for internet distribution according to the Urheberrecht .

Court decisions have set vastly different standards for the eligibility of works of applied art on the one hand and other types of work on the other, especially fine art. While the barrier is usually very low for fine art and protection is granted even for minimal creativity (dubbed " kleine Münze "), there are extremely high standards for applied art to be reached for it to achieve copyright protection. This is so because Geschmacksmuster (design patents) and Schriftzeichengesetz (typeface patents) are seen as lex specialis for applied art such that the threshold of originality must not be assumed low for them. This has been confirmed by courts several times, especially for logos, but also for earrings.

Germany has implemented the EU Copyright Directive . German copyright law was the reason the length of copyright term was chosen for the 93/98/EEC. German copyright law had used 70 years after the death of the author, and as the longest term of any member, was chosen.

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