Country flags are protected by copyright

Do you need to clear the copyright on coats of arms or not?

Is there a Copyright on coats of arms? As you know, the first thing you have to do before using a picture is to check the copyrights of the picture. But how is that with a coat of arms? Are there any copyrights (still) for this? Or maybe there are other rights that you need to consider before using them?

In order to clear up any ambiguity, we have discussed this in detail Lawyer Volker Beck from BSB Rechtsanwälte entertained in Munich. We summarize the result for you in this article.

Who has the copyright on coats of arms?

As is well known, the author is the creator of a work and the coat of arms is also considered to be such a work. So, in principle, anyone who has created the corresponding coat of arms can claim a copyright on the coat of arms. However, most of the city's coats of arms are so old that copyright protection has probably long expired.

You know that in copyright law the term of protection is 70 years until the year after the death of an author, until works become public domain.

Are all coats of arms already in the public domain?

No, because there are certainly coats of arms that are subject to change over time, such as the coat of arms of the state capital Munich.

In fact, the current coat of arms of the city of Munich has only been used since 1957. The graphic artist Eduard Ege designed it at this time so that he could still claim a copyright. However, he died in 1978. According to the protection period of 70 years, his works will only count as public domain from 01.01.2049. Until then, the heirs or legal representatives can still assert copyrights.

Do copyrights on coats of arms have to be clarified?

Whether copyrights still need to be clarified on a coat of arms that you want to use depends on whether the designer in question is still alive or has been dead for more than 70 years.

Are there other rights that prohibit the use of coats of arms?

Yes, the unauthorized use of federal and state coats of arms is prohibited according to Section 124 of the Administrative Offenses Act (OWiG).

However, they may still be used if the use of such a coat of arms is purely for information. It is just not allowed to give the impression that the user himself is the sovereign. Other coats of arms, such as city coats of arms, are NOT protected under Section 124 of the OWiG.

In addition, coats of arms can also be protected under the name right according to § 12 of the German Civil Code (BGB).

This means that as soon as coats of arms receive the so-called traffic validity (i.e. the protection of a trademark), they are protected as a label with a name function. Due to the publication, this should be the case for almost all municipal coats of arms, but probably not for private coats of arms.

Do I have to obtain permission to use city coats of arms?

Yes, if the community's interests worthy of protection could be violated during use. Because in such cases the community can sue for an omission. In the case of reports, this is usually not the case, so that no approval is usually required for editorial use.

But should be a commercial impression arise that gives the impression that a municipality is behind the publication, then that is Publication NOT allowed!
In the case of commercial use, the use should therefore be clarified beforehand!

We hope you have learned something new? In our day-to-day work, we regularly encounter a wide variety of cases, which means that we are familiar with a wide range of rights clearance. If you need support in clearing up your rights, you will find a competent partner in our service. You can read more about our rights clearance service here.

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