Already last October, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) decided to agree to a modification of the Urheberrechtsgesetz. According to the new addition to the relevant law (§38 Absatz 2a UrhG), authors of publicly funded scientific articles always retain the right to make them publicly available no later than six months after their initial publication. This right remains with the author(s) even if a contract with the publisher stipulates something else.
From a practical point of view, this seems like a very reasonable move. At least for those of us working at universities, this means that we can legally make all our work available through our web pages. As these are easy to find, free access will become possible and generally legal.
The document can be found through the search pages of the Bundesrat by looking up Drucksachen-Nr. 514/12.
Sorry, but your information is wrong. The Bundesrat did not agree to a modification of the German copyright regarding § 38 Abs. 2a, but in an another contect just proposed this modification. This is a very complex discussion in Germany, but until today NOTHING is in force.
I’m sorry if this was confusing: The German Federal Council cannot pass laws, as explained in the referenced Wikipedia article. What is at issue here is a recommendation, which is what it is explicitly called in the relevant Drucksache. Whether or not any of this will happen I don’t know. I’m not even sure what the state of discussion is with the legislative body.
Thank you for insisting on that important distinction. At this point the only way to keep your research accessible is indeed to not hand it over to a commercial publisher.