Territorial application of copyright (Territoriality Principle)

Copyright is governed by the principle of territoriality. This means, the existence, content and expiration of the copyright are subject to the law of the country in which the use or infringement occurs.

Based on this rule, infringements on the Internet, for example, unlawfull availablity (currently, probably the most frequent copyright infringements), are to be dealt with under the legal systems of all countries from which the work can be accessed.

You may include a choice of law clause in a copyright contract, which means the parties agree that the laws of a certain country shall apply. If, within the EU, no choice of law has been made, the law of the country applies where the closing of the contract was most obviously made or with which it is most closely connected under the Rome I Regulation.


An Austrian writer grants the rights of use in her latest novel for German territory to a German publishing house in Berlin. German copyright law applies because the place of execution and closest contract connection is in Germany.

Foreign Copyright

Works of non-EU citizens (third-country nationals) are not generally protected in Austria – this principle is valid in many other countries as well. The discrimination has led to many reciprocal international agreements and intends to afford the same protection to foreign works as to domestic works and guarantee certain minimum standards.

Where there are no international or bilateral agreements, the regulations are as follows:

Citizenship or the registered office of a business is the main determining factor. Austrian citizens and business enterprises enjoy the full protection of Austrian copyright. Apart from that, works by foreign authors enjoy copyright protection only if published in Austria. Broadcasting by an Austrian radio or television broadcaster is not sufficient.

Protection resulting from reciprocal laws and agreements:

This requires that the works of Austrian authors enjoy similar copyright protection in the home country of the foreign author as they do in Austria and are treated on an equal basis with the works by citizens of this country. In that case, Austria reciprocates and grants protection to those foreign works.