Note: As of March 2001 another similar complaint from AAeV (German GSO) is still pending. Penalties can be a fine and/or up to five years in jail.

See German original document aawsolg.pdf

See underlying complaint German original document (criminal charges filed by AAWS Inc.) aaws2000.pdf


2 Ws 5/00
92 Js 28390.7198 Attorney General b.d. OLG Frankfurt

Court order

In matters of complaint enforcement

against  Matthias Michel from Oberursel,

Allegation: Copyright infringement

The High Court Frankfurt am Main - 2. criminal chamber- based on complaint from
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 475 Riverside Drive, New York, N.Y.
10115, USA - represented by  attorney Frieder Roth, Gewürzmühlstr. 5,
80538 München -, to have the court decide whether of not the decision of
Attorney General of State at High Court Frankfurt am Main of Nov 29, 1999
-Zs15/99- was right or wrong
on June 21, 2000 the court ruled according to §172ff StPO:

The complaints from plaintiff  are not appropriate and hereby rejected. Plaintiff is obliged to cover all necessary cost the defendant might have had for defense.


Plaintiff blames defendant to have intentionally infringed plaintiff's exclusive rights to exploit the english language book ,,Alcoholics Anonymous".

This book was published 1939 in the US for the first time and is allegedly based on a text by co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson. In the US the book meanwhile fell into public domain because protection time lapsed, in Germany it allegedly still enjoys copyright protection due to the bilateral convention of Jan15, 1892 [eighteen-hundred-ninety-two] over the mutual protection of copyrights between Deutsches Reich and the US.

Defendant conducts a business called,,12&12" in Oberursel, a publishing house and mail order book shop [editors note: for Hazelden stuff and the like]. In his catalogue of May 1997 defendant offered three different editions of the english Original as well as a Swedish edition of ,,Alcoholics Anonymous" [editors note: the court merely repeats the allegations from AAWS here, in fact no Swedish edition was offered in the catalogue]. The English language editions are

- the book,,Alcoholics Anonymous" Reprint of first Edition 1939,
published by Big Book Fellowship, c/o RSC, Box 21212, Canton, Ohio 44701

- ,,Alcoholics Anonymous Study Edition", published by IWS, Inc., ISBN 0-9637666-1-9
- the book ,,Alcoholics Anonymous" pocket edition, published by IWS, Inc., ISBN 0-9637 666-0-0.

Defendant holds the opinion the book ,,Alcoholics Anonymous" contains neither Bill Wilson's
program (ideas, inventions) nor was it a intellectual creation of his own, he further holds it has no copyright protection in Germany.

Attorney of State has stopped inverstigations against defendant on July 6,1999 according to § 170 Abs. 2 StPO, because any intention to violate sections §§ 106, 108 a UrhG (German Copyright Law) could not be verified. Plaintiff's complaint against this decision was rejected by Attorney of State General at High Court Frankfurt am Main on Nov29, 1999.

Plaintiff's appeal against this decision [of Attorney of State General] filed in correct form and in time, however it has no success.

It can remain undecided whether Bill Wilson was or was not author of book in question or if due to pre-publication in the US without copyright notice the book was anyhow public domain, so that also in Germany no copyright protection would exist. Anyway, it could not be shown with necessary reliable evidence that he by publishing his catalogue of May 1997 had the intention --or at least took in account-- to violate a copyright of plaintiff that might or might not exist.

According to plaintiff's report defendant in 1995 was seeking legal advice from attorney Müller von der Heide at legal department of Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels [editors note: This organization is somehow the counterpart to US Copyright Office, Washington DC] regarding the question if said books could be under copyright protection of any kind in Germany. From a letter of January 7, 1998 contained in court files here it is obvious that attorney Müller von der Heide first held the opinion there could not exist copyright protection at all. Only in December 1997 he changed his mind and informed defendant accordingly. Therefore it cannot be proven that defendant under these circumstances could have thought there was any copyright protection or that he took in account the possibility to violate any copyrights.

Public Criminal prosecution of defendant for violation of §§ 106, 108 a UrhG cannot be ordered -- because of said subjective reasons.

Because plaintiff's complaint remained unsuccessful plaintiff is obliged to pay court cost (§ 177 StPO) and defendants cost as far as necessary for defense.

Eimer, main judge
Gürtler, judge
Dr. Pfeifer, judge

Frankturt am Main, June28, 2000
legal executive at court office