German Seeks Payments for '@' Symbol

Ed Palomar
LONDON — A German man is reportedly claiming to be the international copyright holder for the "@" symbol. Invoices are instructing recipients to pay from $12 to $37 per year to “Account Holder: Robert-Alan Lucht” in order to license Internet and email use of the @ symbol.

The invoice provides account information for payment to be made to a German bank. The licensing fees vary for commercial, private and educational use of @, and can be paid in euros or U.S. dollars, according to the U.K. online newsletter The Register.

When he was asked to comment on the matter, attorney J.D. Obenberger laughed hysterically.

“Claiming the copyright for the @ sign is so loony,” said Obenberger, who practices law for the Chicago-based firm J.D. Obenberger and Associates, which specializes in adult entertainment and free expression cases.

“When I went to college in the 1970s, I had a succession of manual typewriters, and they all had a key with the symbol for @,” Obenberger told XBiz. “The @ symbol has graced typewriters for a long, long time before the invention of the Internet.”

The amused attorney went on to say that he seriously doubts that Lucht “has the trademark or copyright on the @ symbol. It’s been in the public domain,” stated Obenberger, who told XBiz he has represented clients in the adult industry from Australia to Bosnia.

Obenberger added, “if a client sought to copyright the @ sign [and enforce it], I’d tell them that the law provides serious sanctions for bad faith frivolous pleadings. Plaintiffs may have to pay defendants’ attorney fees.”

Lucht could not be reached for comment regarding his claim to hold the electronic publishing rights for @.