Article 5.1 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression of opinion and is, therefore, an important legal prerequisite for the development of free and lively literature. Furthermore, this Articlestipulates that everybody has the right “to inform him / her unhindered from generally accessible sources”. This could be interpreted as a duty for the state and its public facilities, in particular libraries, to provide an “unhindered” access to the literary resources administered by them. However, the right to participate in state services and educational supplies cannot be brought to court.
For a long time in Germany, legal regulations governing the public provision of appropriate facilities existed in only one federal state for a long time under the Continuing Training Assistance Act (Baden-Württemberg). There are now separate library laws in 5 federal states: first in Thuringia (since 2008), then in Saxony-Anhalt (since 2010), in Hesse (since 2010 with amendment in 2016), in Rhineland-Palatinate (since 2014) and in Schleswig-Holstein (since 2016).
In all other federal states (Länder), the general legal background for public library services is derived from the Federal Constitution (see above), the respective federal states’ (Länder) constitutions as well as from regulations existing on the level of counties and other local communities. The discussion about such laws and on acts regulating the support for culture also reached the parliaments of some other federal states (Länder).
On July 1st 2007, the Act on the German National Library came into force with a stretching of the collection on the internet, certain provisions were amended in 2017. The Copyright / Authors’ Right Law of 1965 (UrhG) is another legal instrument of importance in the literature and library sector. Among other items, the law regulates the rental, duplication and copying of printed products and media. Article 27 UrhGtries to balance the interests by introducing a public lending right: a library royalty paid by state authorities to authors’ societies (VG Wort, GEMA, VG Bild-Kunst), which then compensate the authors as appropriate. For copying machines, Article 54 UrhGforesees a royalty both for the individual machine and for those operators which regularly use them for copying protected works. The VG Wort collects these duties from importers / traders, commercial operators and, as regards the libraries, from the federal states (Länder)
The Law on Fixed Book Prices (BuchPrbG), of 2nd September 2002, is also an important piece of legislation for literature and its dissemination. Publishing companies are obliged to fix the retail prices for their new books. This regulation is meant to safeguard a stable book market and with it a diverse supply structure, from which both the authors and readers should benefit. Since September 1st 2016, the statutory price fixing has also been binding for electronic books (e-books). It applies to all book sales in Germany and is therefore independent of the dealer’s registered office.
In Germany, press law is a sub-area of media law. Press law is reserved for the legislative competence of the Länder. Consequently, the press law for each individual federal state is derived from the respective state press law. The central requirements for the press include the duty of care in journalistic matters, the obligation to provide an imprint, the labelling of advertisements and the right to counterstatements.