Many authors put up their lecture notes online on their personal webpages, available for anyone to download, but many of them don't include a license. Are you allowed to download them or not (as someone not in their university/course, but they put it up on their webpage so anyone can download it)?

As an example, you can look for lecture notes on any topic, most of them won't have a license at the beginning.

(Specifically, I'm asking about Germany)

  • I would think that the act of publishing content to the internet in a publicly available location constitutes implicit permission for people to download it. However, I would make no assumption that you could then share it with someone else. I'm not making this an answer though because I have no experience with German law. Mar 2, 2023 at 20:14
  • Do you download the document for commercial purposes, directly or indirectly? Do you download and save it on a permanent storage medium? Has anyone else have (authorized) access to the created copy/copies? Does accessing the files on the webserver entail “insider knowledge” (e. g. a “deep link”). Are you sure there is no umbrella/catch-all TOS posted on the website’s landing page or other easy to find location? Does the meta-data indicate any license? Mar 8, 2023 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


You do not have permission

That doesn’t mean you can’t download it, it just means that you have to comply with whatever fair use/fair dealing rules are for your jurisdiction. Downloading in some circumstances will be fine, in others it won’t exact details vary by jurisdiction. See What is the practical difference between "fair use" and "fair dealing" in Copyright law?

German copyright law does not recognise a general ‘fair use’ doctrine. Rather the Copyright Act contains a chapter including several specific provisions limiting the scope of rights for the copyright owner with respect to lawfully permitted uses. For instance, such lawfully permitted uses refer to collections for religious use, newspaper articles and broadcast commentaries and, most importantly, the reproduction for private and other personal uses.

  • This situation is exactly the same as an ordinary HTML page, right?
    – Someone
    Mar 2, 2023 at 21:18
  • 2
    @Someone yes it is
    – Dale M
    Mar 3, 2023 at 7:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .