50 euro banknote: No causal connection between the use of the European map on the banknotes and the amount of seigniorage income of the ECB

Photo: BECHER/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

His design of Europe can be seen on billions of euro banknotes; in the author's opinion, the remuneration left much to be desired: A cartographer also failed in the second instance with his demand for additional remuneration for the use of his Europe graphic on euro banknotes.

In the appeal process, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court (OLG) dismissed the lawsuit brought by the now 87-year-old Austrian, who had demanded 5.5 million euros from the European Central Bank (ECB) in the first instance for the use of his work.

In its ruling, the Higher Regional Court came to the conclusion that the landmass depicted on the euro notes actually represents a different work.

An appeal was not permitted, but it would be possible to lodge a non-admissible appeal against the judgment at the Federal Court of Justice (BGH).

According to his lawyer, the cartographer used various satellite images and digital files to depict Europe.

He moved coastlines, fjords and islands and reworked surface structures and colors.

In 1997, the cartographer transferred the rights of use for the depiction of Europe created in this way to the Austrian central bank for a payment of 30,000 schillings - the equivalent of 2,180 euros.

This license was later transferred to the ECB, which had the Europe relief printed on the back of all euro banknotes.

An independent new work was created

The Frankfurt Regional Court did not consider the additional demand of 2.5 million euros immediately and a further three million euros for the next 30 years, which was levied under copyright law, to be legal.

The judges justified their verdict in May 2022, although the image file was used in the design of the banknotes, but at the same time it deviated to such an extent that an independent new work was created.

Among other things, the color was changed and certain geographical elements were not adopted.

The Higher Regional Court agreed with this content.

In addition, the Higher Regional Court Senate saw no causal connection between the use of the European map on the banknotes and the amount of the ECB's so-called seigniorage income, in which the plaintiff wanted to participate.

According to the court, this income for banknote handling would have arisen even if the cartographer's card had not been used for the euro banknotes.