Status: 27/09/2023, 16:47 p.m.
Rolf Danckwerts, Presiding Judge of the 15th Civil Chamber, stands in the courtroom before the decision is announced. © Sebastian Christoph Gollnow/dpa
Til Schweiger's films flush a lot of money into the coffers. In 2008, "Keinohrhasen" was the most successful German film in cinemas. Screenwriter Anika Decker also wanted to benefit from this. In the years-long dispute, she has now won another success.
Berlin - Screenwriter Anika Decker has been fighting for years for a higher share of the total revenue from Til Schweiger's box office hits "Keinohrhasen" and "Zweiohrküken". The Berlin district court has now awarded it to her. Financially, however, she has much less of this than hoped for - according to the ruling, a large part of her claims are time-barred.
"She should have filed a lawsuit much earlier because she knew that the films in the cinema were so successful," said presiding judge Rolf Danckwerts on Wednesday. In view of this, it was obvious that the success would also continue with the subsequent DVD exploitation, the pay-TV exploitation as well as the video and foreign exploitation, according to the court (Az. 15 O 296/18).
The German Screenwriters' Association described this argument as "extremely annoying" and incomprehensible. "Authors write stories, it is not one of their tasks to keep up to date with the success rates of their works in different forms of exploitation, we have no obligation to observe the market," it said in a statement. At the same time, Jan Herchenröder, managing director of the association, emphasized: "We welcome the fact that the claim for additional remuneration is granted by the court." In this respect, it is a "groundbreaking judgment".
"I am pleased that another milestone has been reached," Anika Decker told the German Press Agency. "I would like to thank the German Screenwriters Association and the Screenwriting Department of the German Film Academy for their wholehearted support." She initially left open whether she would accept the decision. "We will carefully examine the verdict and advise on whether to appeal," said her lawyer Nikolaus Reber. It is positive that the ruling also regulates claims for the future.
According to the court, the author had originally demanded more than two million euros from the production company and rights holder Barefoot Films and the media group Warner Bros. The court has now only awarded her a total amount of a good 2020,180 euros in the two cinema hits for the period until the end of 000. For the use of the two film productions from 2021 onwards, it has a claim to the net proceeds of 3.68 percent for "Keinohrhasen" and 3.48 percent for "Zweiohrküken", it said.
The ruling is based on the "fairness clause" in copyright law. It provides for an additional payment if there is a conspicuous disproportion between the originally agreed remuneration and the income generated later. From the Court's point of view, that is the case in the present case. In 2008, "Keinohrhasen" was the most successful German film in cinemas. "Two-eared chicks" also attracted millions of visitors later.
Years of litigation
Decker had fought for her rights with a so-called step-by-step lawsuit. Initially, she had demanded information about the income from the films. In October 2020, the Regional Court ruled in Decker's favour on the grounds that due to the above-average success of both films, there were indications of a possible claim for further participation. The defendant companies initially appealed against that judgment. However, they withdrew this at the oral hearing before the Court of Appeal in February 2022.
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This cleared the way for the second stage of the proceedings, in which the verdict is now available. Because Decker, as a plaintiff, was formally unsuccessful on many points, she will have to pay for a large part of the court costs, according to the ruling.
The screenwriters' association described it as "ludicrous" and "shameful" that Decker was only able to enforce a fair share of the success by means of a lawsuit that was "burdensome in several respects". Nevertheless, he sees the ruling as an "incentive and mission" to secure the rights of authors through clear regulations so that there is no need for trial. Dpa