VG WORT Digital Copyright License FAQs

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1. What is Copyright?
2. Copyright Licensing
3. Overview of Included Rights
4. General Questions
5. Getting a Quote

It happens every day without bad intentions: content is shared via email with colleagues, stored in company databases or uploaded to the cloud.
But the right to share and store articles is generally not included in subscription costs. These digital uses need additional permissions. Sharing or storing without these rights may infringe the copyrights of others.

According to copyright law , all original creations of the human mind, once written down, are protected by copyright. In most cases, a subscription or a single purchase of an article only entitles the purchaser to read the content. Rights to share and to store digitally are often not included.

When companies don’t obtain the additional rights they need to reuse and store articles, authors and publishers suffer because they don’t receive the financial compensation to which they are entitled, and the companies too may suffer if they are found liable for infringement. Even unintentional infringement is still infringement.



What is copyright?

Copyright is a system of law that provides a framework for relationships between the different players in the content industries (all of whom are likely to be copyright rightsholders of one kind or another), as well as for relationships between rightsholders and the consumers of content.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property, along with trademarks and patents in all countries (for which the law tends to be roughly consistent from country to country), and along with other systems of protection for other creations (such as laws governing trade secrets, database rights, rights of publicity and the like) that may vary from country to country. Copyright encourages the development of culture, science and innovation, provides a financial benefit to copyright rightsholders for their works, and facilitates access to knowledge and entertainment for the public.

Among other things, copyright law gives copyright holders rights so they can earn compensation for their work. Whether the structure is based on the natural law underlying much Continental copyright or on the Anglo-American concept of an economic exchange of a legal monopoly from the government for production of creative works by authors and other creators, the notion of an obligation from users to pay compensation (or “remuneration”) for use of their rights to creators and other rightsholders is much the same. And, without the appropriate ability to manage those rights through permissions and licensing (including, sometimes, the right NOT to license), they won’t earn a eurocent!

More importantly, your company too protects its intellectual property – whether it’s your patented inventions or your valuable brands and other trademarks and trade secrets – and it is only appropriate that you respect others’ intellectual property as you expect others to respect your company’s.

To learn about copyright misconceptions, check out our “Top 10 Copyright Misconceptions.”


Copyright Licensing

What is a copyright license?

A copyright license is a permission to do something with copyrighted materials that the law otherwise forbids.
Colleagues share and store articles on a regular basis via email and cloud-based tools such as SharePoint or intranet pages. Rights are needed in order to reuse, store or share copyright protected material. A copyright license makes it easier for employees to lawfully share and store published material, while authors and publishers receive compensation for their works.

What is the VG WORT Digital Copyright License and why do I need it?

The VG WORT Digital Copyright License from VG WORT is for German companies and their global subsidiaries. The VG WORT Digital Copyright License allows employees to legally reuse, store and distribute copyright-protected content within their organization.
Please review the permission grid to see the full list of what you can do with the license.

When do you need the VG WORT Digital Copyright License?

  • If you and your colleagues share, reproduce or store digital information in your day to day work
  • If compliance is important to you
  • If you want to respect copyright
  • If you want to concentrate on your work and don’t want to worry about copyright infringement

What is the relationship between RightsDirect and VG WORT?
RightsDirect, a wholly owned subsidiary of Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), offers licenses to simplify corporate compliance and enables the internal sharing by companies of the most relevant digital literature across borders. In Germany, RightsDirect is a partner of Verwertungsgesellschaft WORT (VG WORT), a collecting society that represents authors, other creators and publishers in connection with licensing their text-based copyrighted works. RightsDirect has been offering the VG WORT Digital Copyright License since 2012 on behalf of VG WORT. This license grants companies headquartered in Germany the right to reuse German and international information sources within their organizations worldwide. The license includes the rights of more than 400,000 German and international rightsholders and offers extensive coverage for companies in information-intensive industries.

How does the VG WORT Digital Copyright License work?

After your company signs the VG WORT Digital Copyright License Agreement, all of your employees are allowed to internally use, store and share lawfully-obtained copyrighted content from all of the authors, other creators and publishers who participate in VG WORT’s and RightsDirect’s services. RightsDirect manages the license process and collects the money on behalf of VG WORT, which then distributes license fees collected from licensees to participating publishers and authors. The VG WORT Digital Copyright License eliminates the need for companies to obtain individual permissions from participating copyright holders for those types of reuse of their content covered by the License.

How is my license fee determined?

The license fee is based on industry, region and number of employees. The location of any of your employees resident outside Germany is also factored into the price.
The prices are calculated based on historical surveys of actual use and take into account that not all of your employees may be using copyright protected content.


Why do I need to count every employee if only a small number of them work with published literature?
The price is calculated on the basis of historical surveys of actual use and is built on the total number of employees, not because every one of them makes copies but because these numbers are more consistently available throughout the globe and help to objectively determine the total usage of all copyrighted materials within an entire organization. Using these numbers eases the process for both the licensee and RightsDirect. Were numbers of “selected” employees used instead, the price-per-employee would be higher, the company and RightsDirect would have to negotiate how to count those numbers to ensure both accuracy and fairness between licensees (and RightsDirect would need more confidential information from the company, thereby increasing transaction costs), and no uncounted employee would be able to share or receive copies of the materials (meaning that storage and sharing under the license would have to be monitored intrusively or some of it would have to be forbidden).

Does license coverage extend to our foreign employees?

Under the VG WORT Digital Copyright License, employees of your organization and its subsidiaries, no matter where they are located in the world, may reuse and share the materials in the same ways as the employees located at the headquarters in Germany.

Rights Included in the VG WORT Digital Copyright License


What does the VG WORT Digital Copyright License allow me to do with copyrighted material?

Below are the business uses covered by the VG WORT Digital Copyright License. While most of the permitted uses relate to internal content sharing, there are some exceptions that allow licensees to share content with external parties like government and administrative bodies or clients in response to a question.

  • Share digital or printed content internally with co-workers via email, intranet posting or PDF.
  • Save to corporate-owned hard drive or network drive.
  • Store articles for records, projects and/or product literature databases.
  • Select and copy portions of digital articles and share with colleagues within your organization worldwide.
  • Attach copies of articles to internal communications such as newsletters, training materials and presentations.
  • Share digital content internally via collaboration applications such as Microsoft SharePoint or your intranet.
  • Scan printed works into digital form when an electronic version of the work is not readily available.
  • Print out web-based or other digital content onto paper or overhead slides.
  • Use published content (including e-books and blogs) in a slide presentation or CD-ROM to an internal audience.
  • Provide a single, responsive digital or print copy of an article to a customer or prospect upon request.
  • Submit photocopied and digital copies of articles to government agencies for regulatory filings.

For more detail about the scope of these rights, please click here to see the permission grid.

The VG WORT Digital Copyright License is a valuable tool as part of your corporate communications and compliance policies. It helps your employees comply with the law and respect the rights of copyright holders while keeping themselves and each other informed about the important developments that affect your business every day. In addition, free educational materials provided by RightsDirect can be used to keep your employees informed about copyright matters generally.

Can I share content outside of my organization under the VG WORT Digital Copyright License?

External sharing of content is included in the following circumstances:

  • In response to government regulatory filing requirements,
  • In the case of many works in the repertory, in response to a client request, in which case a single print or electronic copy may be delivered.


What are digital responsive rights?

Digital responsive rights allow you to share single electronic copies of a particular article with a customer or prospect in response to a request. For example, if a customer has a question related to a certain drug, you can send a copy of a published article from a work participating in the License. Responsive rights relating to the publications of German publishers and select international publishers are included in your annual license at no additional cost.

Does the VG WORT Digital Copyright License cover all my subscriptions?

The VG WORT Digital Copyright License covers millions of articles from thousands of publishers. It covers most of your reuse needs and the RightsDirect team is adding rights to the repertory every day.

How do I verify that a publication is covered by my VG WORT Digital Copyright License?

Using RightFind® Advisor (included with the VG WORT Digital Copyright License), you can quickly check the License repertory for permissions for specific publications.


Can I submit copies of articles and chapters from publications in the repertory to government and administrative bodies under the VG WORT Digital Copyright License?

Yes. Employees may submit print or electronic copies of relevant supporting documentation in regulatory filings to government agencies.

General Questions

How do I know if my company has the VG WORT Digital Copyright License?

If you’re not sure whether your organization has the VG WORT Digital Copyright License, check with a RightsDirect account manager at


How does the VG WORT Digital Copyright License address claims of infringement by copyright owners?

The VG WORT Digital Copyright License is a license providing explicit permission to do whatever it says you can do. That means for the works included in the repertory for the license, the participating copyright owners are granting you the right to make every use of their copyrighted works that is within the scope of the license. As long as you act within the scope of the license, your use is not an infringement.


I am not the decision maker and copyright does not have the highest priority. How can I persuade the CEO?

Make a case that copyright compliance by way of the VG WORT Digital Copyright License is an important step toward respecting the rights of third parties. This is surely in line with your publicly stated corporate guidelines. More importantly, your company too protects its intellectual property – whether it’s your patented inventions or your valuable brands and other trademarks and trade secrets – and it is only appropriate that you respect others’ intellectual property as you expect others to respect your company’s.


Why does a Dutch/ American company sell licenses in Germany?

At RightsDirect and Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), our mission is to make it easy for people to get, use and share content worldwide, while protecting the interests of authors, other creators, publishers and other copyright holders. In Germany, RightsDirect is a partner of Verwertungsgesellschaft WORT (VG WORT),the German collecting society representing the copyright interests of hundreds of thousands of authors and publishers.

Since 2012, on behalf of VG WORT, RightsDirect has been offering the VG WORT Digital Copyright License, which grants companies headquartered in Germany (and their subsidiaries and employees throughout the world) the right to internally reuse lawfully-obtained copies of German and international sources. The license includes rights to reuse the works of more than 400,000 German and international rights holders and offers the comprehensive coverage required by all companies in information-intensive industries. Today’s economy is global and so are the companies (and authors and publishers) we serve.

Getting a Quote


What is the online license portal?

We’ve had requests to make it easier for smaller companies to purchase a license from us. This online portal was created for companies with employees only in Germany, so they can easily purchase a license. If you are part of a company with employees worldwide, the price may be lower than what you are quoted; if you have employees outside Germany, please contact an account manager at


What if it is determined that I am not eligible to purchase via the online portal?

If you fill out the form and receive a message saying your company is not eligible to use this portal to buy a VG WORT Digital Copyright License, please rest assured that your company is still eligible to purchase a license. A member of the RightsDirect team will follow-up with you on your request.


Are taxes included in the personalized price quote?

The price quote doesn’t include applicable taxes, VAT charges, or affiliation discounts. The final price including applicable taxes, VAT charges, and/or discounts appears on your invoice. German customers pay the reduced VAT rate of 7%.


We are part of an industry association; are we eligible for a discount on the license price?

Yes, if you are part of BAH (Bundesverband der Arzneimittel-Hersteller e.V.), BPI (Bundesverband der Pharmazeutischen Industrie e.V.), or VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie e.V.), you are eligible for a discount on the price of a VG WORT Digitial Copyright License. When getting the online quote, please enter the name of your association. The discount is also available if you are a member of one of those associations and purchase the license through a RightsDirect account manager.