Copyright infringement: Radio Dreyeckland issues a warning to secret service

Once again, a domestic secret service has used a photo without asking the rights holders for permission. In the Freiburg case, this also discredits journalism. The interference of the agency in the formation of political will is also critical.

The popular Radio Dreyeckland was successful with a warning against the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Without asking for the necessary permission, the domestic secret service had used a picture to illustrate an article and must therefore pay €1,500. This was confirmed to by the Berlin lawyer David Werdermann, who represents the Freiburg-based radio station.

The warning was about a picture by freelance journalist Julian Rzepa that Radio Dreyeckland had previously published on its website. It shows a demonstration on the occasion of a house eviction on 11 December 2021 in Freiburg city centre. At it was clearly marked „all rights reserved“.

Post is offline

This photo of freelance journalist Julian Rzepa was used by the state office (JR Photography).

The illustrated contribution on the secret service’s website was headlined „left-wing extremism“. Radio Dreyeckland writes that this is how the Office for the Protection of the Constitution discredits the protests. In the meantime, the office has taken the article completely offline, the website shows a 404 error. However, a copy can still be viewed in the internet archive.

„This is not the first time that the so-called constitutional protection has violated copyright,“ comments lawyer Werdermann. Back in 2014, the Berlin Regional Court ruled that the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern domestic intelligence service could not use a photo of the punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet without the consent of the copyright holder.

Werdermann reports on another case in which his law firm successfully issued a warning to the domestic intelligence service in Lower Saxony. „The domestic intelligence service, which claims to protect the constitution, is apparently unable to comply with simple copyright law,“ the lawyer says.

Radio Dreyeckland in focus

This is not the first time that security authorities have targeted Radio Dreyeckland. In 2019, a staff member was arrested on the sidelines of a summit protest in France after his name appeared in a German „troublemaker file“. This list with names of supposed leftist offenders was presumably passed on by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The Baden-Württemberg State Office for the Protection of the Constitution was also involved in the raid against Indymedia Linksunten and the resulting shutdown of the website. It worked closely with the Federal Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

Angela Furmaniak, the lawyer for those affected by „Linksunten“, believes that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution also set the tone in the proceedings to ban the association. This violates the constitutionally guaranteed principle of separation between the police and the secret services. Even the investigation of the evidence obtained was left to the secret services.

Secret services interfere

In the case of the stolen photo, it is not only the copyright infringement that bothers the clients. „Even more scandalous than this is that the secret service thinks it has to run a kind of blog on which it comments on current political events and discredits gatherings protected by fundamental rights,“ says Werdermann. The framing of social phenomena, he said, is the task of the free press, which must remain distant from the state.

As in Baden-Württemberg, the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution recently interfered in the formation of political opinion. One day before „Hamburg expropriated“ launched a popular initiative, the secret service there warned against the group. Presumably the office wanted to put obstacles in the way of the activists.

The Hamburg initiative is modelled on the Berlin referendum on the expropriation and socialisation of private housing companies. The referendum was won with 57.6 per cent. The government led by a Social Democratic mayor, however, does not implement the vote.

Image: The article at the secret service’s website is offline (Laptop: Unsplash/ Howard Bouchevereau; editing:

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.

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