In Germany, apparently, you are allowed to make a "Privatkopie" at most seven times. Are you allowed to write down an exercise on a device using a note taking app more than seven times?

Does writing down exercises count? Precisely, in math, when you solve an algebraic problem, you usually start by writing down the initial problem and proceeding from there. Now that means you made one "Privatkopie"?

Now what if you some time later want to solve the same algebraic problem again, writing down the initial problem, ...

You made another "Privatkopie"?

I'm precisely talking about Germany, and books that the author told not to copy, ...

  • 20
    where did you get that "7 times" limit from? Also, you are making the strong (and likely unwarranted) assumption that a mathematical problem itself would be covered by copyright.
    – amon
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 16:58
  • 3
    Don't solve the same maths problem 7 times! If necessary, solve (as many as needed) similar problems.
    – Taladris
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 6:53
  • 6
    Easy! Always destroy one of the 7 copies before the 8th time. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 13:34

1 Answer 1


You can make as many "manual copies" of math homework for yourself as you like.

The seemingly arbitrary number of "7" came into being because with the invention and popularity of devices for copying, private persons could make copies without considerable loss of quality.

As it was impossible to control who made a copy and whom it was given to, a compromise was found: buying a copying machine (tape recorder, cd burner, dvd burner) or empty media (empty cassette tapes, empty CDs) came with an extra fee on top to be paid by the consumer, that would go to the copyright holders in general, with the assumptions that that would cover the "normal, uncontrollable, private between friends" copying. Like if you burn your mom a CD. Or gift your girlfriend a mix tape. Or copy a page of the book and hand out the excercise to your two study buddies.

So there was a court decision that "more than seven" was more than what you would normally consider a private copy covered by this fee. If you make more than seven copies of a cassette for example, it would be okay to assume that you no longer did that "for a close friend".

Obviously, copying something from a book as you describe, by writing it down with a pencil on a notepad, is in no way "a lossless copy". Even if you type it into an app, manually copying something into another medium is not lossless. Ever. It is also for your very personal use, you don't give it to anyone, not even close friends.

So yes, you can make as many copies as you like, for yourself. If one breaks, and you make another, that is fine. If one breaks every day and you need 700 over the course of two years? Fine. But if you made 700 exact copies to give them to your "700 closest friends", that is not how the law thinks "closest friends" work. That is where the arbitrary number 7 comes from.

  • 13
    "I consider anyone who gives me a gift of at least 10€ to be one of my closest friends!" - Also not how the law thinks "closest friends" work.
    – Douglas
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 7:45
  • 5
    @JanusBahsJacquet Funny that you ask, because there was a case like that just now. As long as nobody sees your room ever, you are fine. If you let a close friend sleep there, you are fine. If you put a photo of that room online, that is a problem. The actual case was about a photograph that someone had bought as a wallpaper and put in a room and had put a photo of the room up on a platform for rentals. The seller of the picture had sold the picture, but technically, not the rights to reproduction and public display, which a photo of the room online constitutes.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 14:04
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    @nvoigt That's a very interesting/intriguing case! Could you share a link? Would love to read more about it. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 14:22
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    @user2705196 Yes. The formatting is horrible, but it is the official page, so what can you do... justiz.nrw.de/nrwe/lgs/koeln/lg_koeln/j2022/…
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 14:27
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    @Mr.Mindor: as author of a copyrightable work, you register that work with the relevant collection management organisation (e.g. as the author of a text with the VG Wort) who distribute the collected fees according to defined categories. E.g. for scientific articles in print journals the VG Wort computes annually from the sum of collected fees in the relevant fee categories and the sum of registered text "standard pages" the current payout per standard page of scientific text (2022: 10 €) and then distributes according to the number of standard pages registered by each author what they get. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:21

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