German news agency loses copyright suit

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MUNICH -- A district court has ruled that news agency reports are not "the product of a personal, individual mind" and therefore have no claim to copyright protection, Germany's Catholic News Agency (KNA) announced Wednesday.

The case involved the KNA's suit against a faith-based anti-abortion organization called Aktion Leben (Action Life), which for five years has regularly released KNA reports on its Web site without having a contract to do so.

The KNA does not know how Aktion Leben had access to the reports, an agency spokesman said, and Aktion Leben credited the KNA for the reports.

The court's decision, reached in Duesseldorf, is precedent-setting, as the nature and degree of copyright protection for news agencies -- especially on the Internet -- is not entirely clear in Germany. KNA is looking into an appeal.

"I think the court has not recognized what is at stake in terms of copyrights for news agencies," KNA editor in chief Ludwig Ring-Eifel said. "News agencies are at the heart of the media world, and when our intellectual property is not protected, then ultimately freedom of the press is in danger."
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