Musicians Copyrights : Infos from your German Legal Team
If you are a musician and you are willing to know a bit more about European and German Musicians Rights, the following information are for you.
Copyright can be divided into three components: Exploitation rights, Right of use and Moral Rights.
The exploitation/utilization rightsare regulated in §§ 15 to 24 UrhG. These include the: reproduction right, distribution right, right of exhibition, and the right of communication to the public.
These rights belong solely to the author, i.e. the composer, and cannot be transferred to other persons. Only upon the composer’s death do the exploitation rights pass to his or her heirs. However, it is possible to grant a right of use to others.
Sections 31 to 44 UrhG regulate the rights of use of the authors. The composers may decide to grant their musical works to third parties for exploitation – e.g. record companies, publishers or musicians.
The moral rights of an author are found in §§ 12 to 14 UrhG. A composer always has the right to be named as the author of his or her work. The author is also protected by law against distortion of the work; this means that the author’s personal interests in his/her work are endangered – e.g. in the case of deterioration or distorted representation of the work.
Is the copyright of musicians transferable?
A composer cannot transfer the copyright in a musical work as such. This is also not possible by means of a contract. However, it is possible to grant others a right to use the work. To do this, a licence agreement is concluded which contains the most important information about the scope of use and the remuneration.
With the triumph of digital data carriers and the internet, the term “music piracy” is on everyone’s lips in music law. Music law contains an accumulation of regulations to combat and preventively curb the illegal distribution or illegal production of copies of copyrighted musical works. The limits of the said regulations are also found in copyright law, for example in the form of legal private copying from a source that is not obviously illegal, as defined in Section 53(1) UrhG.
However, violations of personal rights in music law are also particularly relevant in practice. In particular, musical works may contain socially critical lyrics as well as insulting or discriminatory content. In such cases, a collision of personal rights and the fundamental right of artistic freedom is regularly at the centre, whereby music law affects public law.
Furthermore, collecting societies play a massive role in the field of music law. Among the largest are the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (GEMA) and the Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten (GVL), which primarily look after the financial interests of the respective artists.
Quick Check on the most Frequent Asked Questions of the internet
Are self-composed songs automatically protected by copyright?
German copyright law automatically protects music or sheet music and song lyrics.
What has copyright to do with music?
The musical work is protected under copyright law as soon as it is created, i.e. when the song is played for the first time at rehearsals or when the lyrics and melody are written down.
Has copyright on music a period of expiration?
Copyright on music lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. After that, the statute of limitations expires and it is considered to be in the public domain.
Strangers are using a self-composed song without my permission. What shall I do?
In this case, there may be a copyright infringement. It is possible to take legal action against this. Do not waste time. Contact a lawyer immediately.
What about YouTube? Can I download music for free and sell it online?
The answer is definitely NO. Illegally downloading music from YouTube and eventually selling it or using it without permission is a crime and it can be punished legally. Anyone who uploads a self-composed song on Youtube is considered to be the author. This means that the copyright law for music applies. In addition, anyone who includes other people’s music in a video may be committing a copyright infringement. Therefore, it should be checked beforehand who the author is and whether permission is necessary. A lawyer could definitely help you clarify every question you have.
Copyright infringement only occurs if I commercially exploit the music, right?
NO, that is not correct. If you use pieces of music protected by copyright law and offer them for free download on your website, this is also an infringement. If unauthorised distribution takes place, it is irrelevant whether it is of a commercial nature or not.
The New Music Copyright Reform enters into force on June 7, 2021
The law concerning the new EU copyright directives was published in the Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt) on June 4, 2021 and the new so-called Copyright Service Providers Act (UrhDaG), i.e. the implementation of the controversial Article 17 of the EU Directive (formerly Article 13), will then come into force on August 1, 2021.
Background of the reform:
As a sign of our constantly changing society, social media platforms are also in an unremitting search for the best contents. Copyright law is constantly confronted with digital changes and without a constant adaptation of our legal system would be difficult to keep the media laws contained. For this reason, a copyright reform was passed this year to meet the requirements of an increasingly digitally active knowledge society.
According to the reform, digital platforms will be held liable for copyright infringements on their channels and have to acquire the necessary licenses. Representatives of the online community must accept that there is an enforceable copyright on the Internet and this must be accepted in the future of copyright law. Authors and rights exploiters, in turn, must come to terms with the fact that the German government has defined a “minor use” that is permitted without compensation for copyrights: fifteen seconds in image and sound, 160 characters of text, and image excerpts of up to 125 kilobytes are free.
This does not sounds like “too much”, but just the fifteen seconds is too much in the age of Instagram and TikTok for musicians, music publishers, filmmakers and film rights holders of the free. These fifteen seconds are enough to play out the decisive scene on TikTok for instance and this has been the reason for criticism and resistance form the side of musicians and music publishers. These letters will in particular not give up really soon, even once the new copyright law has come into force.
What if you decide to write a music album… and someone else decides to publish the same music you have just written? Is it just a case? Did they copied you? What does the law says about these kind of legal disputes?
The author of a music work X decides to sue the author of the song Y, because the music is alleged to be copied from the pre-existing work X. This is
This is a real case that the OLG Hamburg solved with a strong and firm tribunal decision.
The Hamburg Regional Court dismissed the case. Yes, you read that right. In fact, it is true that the X work of music own the right of protect ability, however, the composition of the Y music had minor deviations. The possibility of double creation was thus given. It could not be proved that the protectable guitar melody was taken over from the pre-existing work.
The second expert of the Court of Appeal referred to the frequent occurrence of the chord sequence (Turnaorund) and that the guitar figures could easily be derived from finger exercises. A double creation was therefore very likely.
Are you interested in this case? Do you have questions? Don’t waste time! CONTACT US. We are here for you.
(Landgericht Düsseldorf, Urteil vom 12.06.2019 – 12 O 263/18 – )
Acquisition of rights of use from GEMA for musical works as stage representation is not possible!
The District Court of Düsseldorf has decided that the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf must refrain from performing the music composed and arranged by the sound artist Parviz Mir-Ali for the Schauspielhaus Dresden to “Der Idiot” by Fjodor Dostojewski.
The case was based on the following facts: In 2015, the well-known sound artist Parviz Mir-Ali had composed the music for the stage play “Der Idiot” by Fjodor Dostojewski in the production of Matthias Hartmann for the Staatsschauspiel Dresden. In 2016 the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus took over the production from Dresden together with the music composed by Mir-Ali. For the 2016/2017 season, the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf paid the sound artist an agreed lump sum. The Schauspielhaus refused payments for the further seasons 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 with reference to its payments to GEMA. The plaintiff sound artist saw his copyrights violated with the performances.
The Düsseldorf Regional Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff. […]