Screenwriter awarded additional remuneration by Berlin court

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In a judgment from September 27, 2023, Berlin’s regional court – the Landgericht (LG) Berlin – awarded a screenwriter additional remuneration and in doing so strengthened German copyright law (case ref.: 15 O 296/18).

One of the traditional subdivisions of intellectual property law, copyright law is concerned with the protection of creative ideas and intellectual achievements. We at the commercial law firm MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte can report that this recent ruling by the LG Berlin saw the court strengthen the rights of a screenwriter and award her additional remuneration.

The screenwriter plaintiff in the case in question, the author of two successful motion pictures, asserted claims to revenue arising from the exploitation rights in the films against the production company as well as a film and media group, and the LG Berlin has granted the claim in principle.

The plaintiff had received remuneration for the rights to the motion pictures. But after both films turned out to be highly successful, she sought an adjustment by way of an action for equitable participation pursuant to Section 32(a) of the German Copyright Act (UrhG). The two firms on the receiving end of this suit rejected her demand, reasoning that there was no glaring disparity between the remuneration she had received and the income from the exploitation rights in the films.

This view was later rejected by the LG Berlin, which held that the plaintiff was entitled to be paid additional equitable remuneration, though this only applies to adjustment claims from 2015 onwards. Older claims are already time-barred, according to the court. The plaintiff remains entitled to payment of around 180,000 euros.

However, she could have been entitled to a lot more if she had reached out to an expert IP lawyer early on. This is because she did not assert her claims until 2018. Due to the three-year statute of limitations, her claims from before January 1, 2015, were already time-barred. With the timely expert advice of a lawyer well-versed in IP law, the plaintiff, whose claims totaled around 2 million euros, could have claimed significantly more.

This case goes to show the importance of protecting intellectual property and consulting an experienced attorney.

We at MTR Legal Rechstanwälte advise on all aspects of intellectual property law, including the protection of industrial property.

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