Copyright Infringements

Copyright infringements may have consequences under civil and also, in part, under criminal law. Penalties are relatively strict as copyright and related rights are easily infringed upon.

It is important to understand that in copyright law there is no "acquisition in good faith". Meaning you can acquire rights only from those who actually hold them.


A publishing house signs a contract for publication with a writer for a short story collection. Some of the short stories are not the writer's own work. Even if the publisher is unaware of it, he is still liable for copyright infringement.

Civil law

In the event of copyright infringement, the author has a claim to injunctive relief and a claim to elimination of the disturbance. It may be demanded that the infringement immediately cease or be removed and that no further instances of copyright infringement occur. Different to German law,  Austrian law requires no prior warning of an infringement but it is advisable to do so.


A record company reproduces and distributes audio recordings of adapted works for which no adaption authorisation has been granted. The author of the original work may demand that the production of the audio recordings stop (claim to injunctive relief) and furthermore that any and all audio recordings (including any master tape used for the production) be destroyed.

In fine arts, a restoration or elimination of an alteration is often impossible, for instance, if a picture has been partially painted over. The artist may demand, however, that an appropriate notice of the change be posted.

In addition to that, authors have a declaratory right, which means in the event of a dispute they may seek a declaratory judgment that a certain right exists (e.g. that he or she is the holder of the copyright) or that a certain right does not accrue to another party.

In some cases, where there is a rightful interest, a publication of judgment at the expense of the unsuccessful party may be requested, for example, if another person has purported to be the author.

In addition to all these consequences, financial claims may be asserted. In the event of copyright infringement, irrespective of whether the copyright was infringed upon with or without blame, the author is always entitled to equitable remuneration (standard royalty).

But if the infringer of the copyright is at fault (she or he should have been aware that he or she was infringing on a copyright), the author may demand damages and lost profits (or recovery of profits). This applies to infringements of exploitation rights as well as to infringements of moral rights. Damages may be awarded for material and non-material damage, not only to the author but also to any other rights holders (holders of rights of use).

Alternatively, – in the case of infringements of exploitation rights – twice the equitable remuneration may be demanded, however, only in the event of negligence or intent. This possibility should be used if damage is difficult to prove, relatively small or did not result at all.

Criminal law

Intentional infringements of copyright are also relevant under criminal law. In Austria it is a private criminal action, which means the authorities will not act on their own initiative. Charges will only be pressed on petition of the rights holder. The motion must be filed within 6 weeks of notice of the infringement and the suspected perpetrator, otherwise it exceeds the statute of limitations.

A reproduction or unlawful recording of a recitation or performance is not punishable under criminal law if it is made for personal use or for the personal use of a third party.

In practice, there is a big infringement problem over the Internet in that the copyright holder is not aware of the identity of the infringer. If the rights holder contacts the operator of the relevant platform, the latter is often either not obligated nor even authorised, due to the Privacy Act, to disclose the identity of the infringer. However, without a named suspect it is not possible to raise private criminal charges.