Linguistic Formation of a Website Copyright Protected?

The OVG in Rostock decided on June 27, 2007 (re 2 W 12/07) a very interesting case for all those, who have a website. The answered were questions “Are websites computer programs and so subject to copyright protection?” and “Can a website meet the requirements for copyright protection as a work?”.


The plaintiff, a professional webdesigner, sued his client for copyright infringement. He stated that this site did not refer to him as the developer per author’s designation. The designer had developed a site using an HTML-editor and entered such significant keywords that it was highly ranked in Google for a longer period. In the website, the plaintiff entered his designation as the developer. The defendant deleted this remark.

1.) Are websites computer programs and so subject to copyright protection?

Websites, that alone rely on HTML-files are not computer programs according to §§2 I 1, 69a I 1 UrhG. Computer programs are such programs that consist of an array of commands to control or operate a computer enabling to process some kind of data. The HTML-tags in the source code only communicate the structure, formatting of the published text and/or files. Therefore, websites will never be computer programs.


2.) Can a website meet the requirements for copyright protection as a work (§2 I 1 UrhG)?
Generally, a run-of-the-mill websites do not qualify as a work in copyright protection because they are no individual creation. This will be different whenever the linguistic formation of the site, and the choice, arrangement of key words to be searched in the page contents and metatags show a creative individuality. This is shown whenever this arrangement leads to top referrals on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. In the reported case, the plaintiff presented a search result showing the page on rank 1 of 10,100 results. This is no accident.

Search engines deliver their results by evaluating the information in the metatags and document titles. A special knowledge is required to achieve such results. Herein is the personal creation needed for copyright protection.

Published on the old CMS: 2008/1/5
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 228 reads

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