The new German copyright law has finally been approved. The law was accepted last Friday by the Bundestag's Upper House, and will come into effect on Jan. 1 2008.

Private copies are fundamentally still permitted, but there are various restrictions. For instance, the text does not allow a consumer to circumvent copy protection or a DRM-system when making a copy.

One new feature is that downloading in P2P sharing exchanges is partially forbidden. As soon as it is evident that "the film or music offered is an unlawful offer on the Internet", downloading is a punishable offence.

The federal minister of justice Brigitte Zypries says the law "creates a reasonable balance between the interests of authors in preserving and exploiting their intellectual property and the needs of the hardware industry, consumers and science with regard to the use of works."

The new rules extend the legal charges for copies on electronic copy and storage media. Originally, the law had been planned to limit these charges to 5% of the selling price, but the Bundestag's Upper House voted against this upper limit for reimbursement rates.

This decision was justified by the constant decrease in the price of electronic copy and storage media, which might lead to substantial losses in the view of the authors.

The new rates for individual device groups are to be negotiated between the manufacturers' associations and the collecting societies.

The German parliament had initially approved the new copyright law on July 5.