When I reported my publications from 2017 to the VG Wort today, I could decide whether I wanted the publisher to get a share of my returns from the VG Wort (‘Verlagsbeteiligung”). The pertaining information provided by them only elaborates technical details. Unless I missed something, I plainly decide whether a portion of my returns shall be given to the publisher or myself. Moreover, given that the decisions for analogous retroactive redistributions were anonymous, I assume that this applies here as well, i.e., the publisher will not know how I decided but just see how much they got in total.


I feel like I am missing something: Is there any reason why I would choose to let them have a part of my share? To forego the inevitable discussion, assume that I do not consider the publishers of my papers worth or in need of additional financial support.

Note that this is about newly reported publications, not about the redistribution of returns between 2012 and 2016 after their distribution was ruled to be unlawful. Here I can understand that one might argue that publishers could not account for this in their calculations. However, this does not apply to publications from 2017 as publishers had the chance to adapt.

For the search engines: Warum sollte ich einer Verlagsbeteiligung bei der VG Wort zustimmen?

  • 2
    Check the paragraph "Änderung durch BGH-Urteil" in the Wikipedia-link you gave, it should answer at least part of your question.
    – Dirk
    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:35
  • I don't see any reason for scientific authors (and accordingly decided not to share with scientific publishers). The situation is different for other authors who's opportunities to publish at all could be non-existent if certain publishers go out of business.
    – Roland
    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:35
  • @DirkLiebhold: I am aware of that, but that’s about redistributing past earnings. It does not explain why this option exists for publications made after the verdict.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


You would do this if you authored a publication with a small, independent publisher whom you want to protect from bankruptcy.

The decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) that publishers have to return the share of VG Wort royalties they received between 2012 and 2015 to their authors has cost publishers 20--200 percent of a yearly proceed (according to a science publishing association).

Most publishers can handle this, but some small publishers seem to struggle, and these are often houses that publish financially risky work beyond the mainstream, i.e. they may be run by patrons of the arts rather than business people. Some authors have a close and mutual relationship with those publishers and would relinquish what's now legally their share of royalties in favor of keeping their publishers in business.

See, for example, this excerpt from an open letter by a dozen authors who published with Verbrecher Verlag, Maroverlag and other independent houses:

Nun wollen wir von dem für unsere Verlage schmerzhaften bis ruinösen Ausgang [des BGH-Urteils] auch nicht profitieren. Wir haben gewiss nichts zu verschenken, aber wir wollen uns auch nicht gegeneinander ausspielen lassen. Es sind die unabhängigen Verlage, die unsere eigensinnigen Bücher in einem nicht einfachen Umfeld durchgesetzt haben.

Wir werden deshalb das Formular der VG Wort „Verzicht auf Rückabwicklung zugunsten von Verlagen“ vor dem 28.2.2017 unterschreiben und bitten Euch, das ebenfalls zu erwägen.

Rough translation:

We don't want to profit from the Court judgement, which is painful or even ruinous for our publishers. We certainly have nothing to donate, but we don't want to be played off against each other. It's the independent publishers that have made our idiosyncratic books possible in a difficult environment.

Therefore we will sign the [pertinent VG Wort form] and thereby relinquish our royalties, and we also ask you to consider this option for yourself.

While this letter is about the redistribution of returns between 2012 and 2016, it illustrates the reasoning behind the decision of some (few) authors to share their VG Wort proceeds with the publisher also in the future.

The initiative "fair book market" lists further considerations for and against sharing. Those in favor are either based on notions of fairness, or on the strategical calculation that disgruntled publishers might leave the VG Wort in the long run to form a new entity in which author's interests are represented less well.

In sum, this is unlikely to be relevant for most authors of scientific literature, but it might be a consideration for authors of literary or philosophical works at the fringes, who want to support their indie label. Strictly based on your assumption: there is no (strong) point in sharing your returns.

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