European Federation of Journalists

Germany: Expert report recommends class action lawsuits for copyright infringements of freelancers

The German Association of Journalists (DJV) and ver.di recently published an assessment report authored by law professor Caroline Meller-Hannich on possible instruments of collective legal protection in copyright law. The report concludes that, when implementing the EU directive on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single MarketGerman legislators should not renounce the instrument of a class action law suit or collective litigation. 

A class action lawsuit of trade unions or associations is an important aspect of the copyright directive, and is particularly critical for the protection of freelance journalists. Authors regularly have difficulties in enforcing their legal claims to appropriate remuneration. Often, they are paid below the appropriate fees on the basis of standardised agreements.

The report’s finding confirms the DJV’s and ver.di’s assessment that freelance journalists can only sue to protect their authors’ rights and claim to fair remuneration in theory, while the reality presents many obstacles to this: In practice, any legal dispute with a media company would mean the end of cooperation and collaboration between the editorial department and the freelancer presenting a complaint.

Frank Überall, DJV’s federal chairman stated: “If we as a professional association and trade union are able to enforce our members’ legal claims, that would be a huge leap for our colleagues.

“Creative professionals need legislative help to enforce their rights, because the market clearly does not do it. In her expert opinion, Prof. Dr. Caroline Meller-Hannich has made it clear that effective collective actions can help against the overwhelmingly powerful publishers,” explained ver.di national board member Christoph Schmitz.

The expert opinion report points out that the instrument of the class action law suit is on the rise in various areas of the European economy and society.

The European Federation of Journalists agrees that class action suits are vital when it comes to protecting the authors’ rights of the weakest that is normally the freelancers’.

The full report can be found on the dju in ver.di and the DJV homepage.