Copyright infringement and remedies

Infringing acts

What constitutes copyright infringement?

In general, any use of a work that fulfils the criteria for a protectable work under the Copyright Act in a manner that is comprised by the types of exploitation mentioned in sections 14 to 18a of the Copyright Act without the consent of the author (or co-authors) constitutes a copyright infringement, unless the use falls under the limitations to copyright.

Additionally, if a user has been granted a licence to use the work, and he or she disregards the scope of this licence, this also constitutes an infringement of the exploitation rights of the rights holder (apart from the breach of contract between the parties).

Vicarious and contributory liability

Does secondary liability exist for indirect copyright infringement? What actions incur such liability?

Claims under the Copyright Act can also be asserted against indirect perpetrators (eg, the instigator), not only against the direct offender.

In particular, a specific liability of the entrepreneur is prescribed. An action for injunction may also be brought against the owner of an enterprise where such infringement has been committed or is likely to be committed within the activities of the enterprise by one of his or her employees or agents. Further, where the infringement giving rise to equitable remuneration is committed by an employee or agent in the course of the activities of an enterprise, the owner of the enterprise shall be liable to pay such remuneration. The owner of the enterprise shall also be liable to compensate damages if he or she was aware or should have been aware of the violation.

Further, a rights holder can also apply for an injunction against an intermediary whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right, provided that the intermediary is aware of the copyright infringement and hence, liable under the rules of the Austrian E-Commerce Act.

Available remedies

What remedies are available against a copyright infringer?

The author is entitled to bring a forbearance claim (section 81 of the Copyright Act). Such a cease-and-desist obligation would also include an obligation to remove the source of the infringement and the infringing products. However, this would only be admissible if the infringer is legally entitled to remove such products (section 86).

Preliminary injunctions may be granted, among other things, to secure such cease-and-desist claims (section 87c). With regard to preliminary injunctions, Austrian law focuses on the questions of infringement and validity. According to a lower evidentiary standard in interim proceedings, it is generally sufficient to convince the court that a copyrighted work is valid and that the occurrence of an infringement is more likely than the opposite.

Any person required to pay equitable remuneration or equitable compensation, or to pay damages shall also be required to render accounts to the rights holder and to have their correctness verified by an expert as a first step (section 87a).

The author is also entitled to be furnished with correct and complete information on the producer, content, country of origin and quantity of copies distributed by the offender. The right to information shall belong to the person to whom the right to distribute copies in Austria belonged at the time of exhaustion (section 87b).

Limitation period

Is there a time limit for seeking remedies?

Claims for equitable remuneration, for equitable compensation, for surrender of profits and for information become time-barred within three years. Forbearance claims and claims for removal become time-barred after 30 years.

Monetary damages

Are monetary damages available for copyright infringement?

Under section 86 of the Copyright Act, the owner of a work is entitled to be paid an adequate compensation for the use of the work without his or her consent. The monetary compensation is assessed on the basis of a royalty as far as the adequate compensation (and not damages in case of intentional or negligent behaviour) is concerned. There is minimal case law regarding the assessment of the exact amount of the royalty rate to be paid. The licence fees to be paid usually are assessed on the commonly paid licence fees.

In the event of negligent or intentional behaviour, damages may be awarded instead of an adequate compensation. The author is entitled to either damages, including their own lost profits, or the surrender of profits made by the infringer. In order to facilitate the bringing of evidence, the author is also entitled to assert lumped damage claims. The amount of a lump sum damages claim is calculated on the basis of double the amount for adequate compensation.

Attorneys’ fees and costs

Can attorneys’ fees and costs be claimed in an action for copyright infringement?

In Austria, attorneys’ fees can be claimed by the winning party from the losing party. The calculation basis for this is laid down in the Attorneys’ Tariff Act. Based on a determined amount in dispute, which for intellectual property proceedings is €43,200, the fees for all the required court actions (eg, hearings and written pleading) are calculated. Hence, in Austria, the losing party must reimburse the winning party for the costs of court proceedings calculated on these principles.

Criminal enforcement

Are there criminal copyright provisions? What are they?

Any person who commits an infringement of the kind referred to in section 86, paragraph 1; section 90b; section 90c, paragraph 1; or section 90d, paragraph 1 of the Copyright Act shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding 360 times the daily rate; ‘daily rate’ means the unit for the calculation of the fine on a certain daily basis. Therefore, Austrian verdicts determine a certain number of such daily rates and the respective amount for these rates. For instance, if the defendant is sentenced to 180 daily rates at €70, the fine in total amounts to €12,600. The infringement shall not, however, be punishable if it only involves the unauthorised reproduction or an unauthorised recording of a recitation or a performance for personal use or for the personal use of another person, effectively free of charge.

The offender shall be prosecuted only at the request of the person whose right has been infringed, and hence, the prosecutor does not initiate investigations ex officio.

Online infringement

Are there any specific liabilities, remedies or defences for online copyright infringement?

Section 87b, paragraph 3 of the Copyright Act allows information claims of the rights holder against the internet access provider to identify infringing users if there is an obvious rights infringement.

Prevention measures

How may copyright infringement be prevented (including, for example, customs enforcement measures and any technological notable developments)?

There is no fail-safe method of preventing copyright infringement. It depends on the circumstances of the case which measures can prevent or help to prevent copyright infringement. Hence, the respective strategy must always be a tailor-made solution that recognises the specific risks and understands the financial, technical and organisational circumstances of the rights holder to provide the best protection.

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

1 May 2020.