Territorial Application of Copyright (Territoriality Principle)

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

Based on this rule, infringements over the Internet, for example by making available unlawfully (currently presumably the most frequent copyright infringement), 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 no choice of law has been made, within the EU the law of the country applies where the characteristic performance of the contract was effected 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 the German territory to a German publishing house domiciled in Berlin. German copyright law will apply because the place of performance is Germany and the closest connection of the contract is with Germany.

Copyright of aliens

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 agreements concluded internationally and intended to afford the same protection to foreign works as to domestic works and furthermore to guarantee certain minimum standards.

Without international or bilateral agreements, the regulations are as follows:

Citizenship or the registered office of a business is the main connecting 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 these have been 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 in Austria and are in any case treated similarly to the works by citizens of this country. If that is the case, Austria grants protection to these foreign works.