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.
When a musician samples, he takes fragments from other people’s songs. Does he thereby violate copyright or is that freedom of art? The BGH has decided. Here an overview of the legal dispute from an article of the German https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bgh-urheberrecht-101.html). In music, sampling refers to the process of using a part of an – already finished – sound or music recording in a new, often musical context. Nowadays, this is usually done with a hardware or software sampler, i.e., the selected sound sample is usually digitized and stored so that it can be further processed with audio programs.
Why have they been arguing about this in court for years? A german rapper, singer and music producer thinks to this day that he was allowed to simply take the “music snippet” into his song. Legally, the issue is the conflict between artistic freedom and the rights one has as a producer of a sound carrier. These are the so-called copyrights and ancillary copyrights: “The author of a sound record has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and make the sound carrier available to the public,” the Copyright Act states.
What can we now expect from the BGH’s ruling? With its decision, the BGH must implement the guidelines of the ECJ judges. After hearing the case in January, it does not look like the judges in Karlsruhe will simply “wave through” the rapper´s sampling. So the question remains whether the artistic sound sequence in the song is recognizable or not. To have this clarified, the BGH could refer the case back to the Hamburg Higher Regional Court. If Pelham loses, the case could even go back to the Federal Constitutional Court. After all, he won there in 2016. Either way, the principles laid down by the courts affect the hip-hop and music scene as a whole.
Making music in your flat without neighbouring stress: is that possible in Germany?
As a matter of fact, the old-fashion prerequisite of a happy home is having the freedom of doing what you like, when you like, with whom you like. But from a legal point of you? Is it true? Are we free to do whatever we like?
The answer is the same: your freedom ends when mine begins. If your behavior is in some way causing a situation of distress for another person (it could be the neighbour, the flatmate etc.), your freedom could become a “torture” for someone else and this should be legally regulated. More precisely: you all know the problem: good vibes, a group of friend, a nice dinner listening to some music. Or you have just bought a new piano and want to practice every day. Is it allowed? How loud? Till when? Is there a legal regulation for this? Of course!
Practising a musical instrument shall not be prohibited even in rented flats. The Higher Regional Court (OLG) Hamm has made it clear.There is a general right to make music (OLG Hamm, Ref. 15 W 122/80) and even practising an instrument on Sundays is not considered a disturbance of the peace per se.
As a rule, a maximum of two hours of music-making per day should be tolerated. However, there are different court rulings on house music. The permitted practice time varies depending on the court decision – for the piano, for example, from one and a half to three hours a day.
Music experts have significant influence on the decisions in almost all legal proceedings. In some cases, several expert opinions are requested in order to have an objective framework of the situation; it could also happen that different experts can contradict each other. In the last years, there has been an increasing “professionalisation”. In the beginning, expert opinions were still personal and sometimes methodologically questionable. Over time, experts with a certain familiarity with case law and legal vocabulary were chosen from the tribunal/legal structure. Increasingly, other methods besides the purely descriptive analysis of works and the comparison of notes from the fields of music psychology and music sociology started finding their way into expert opinions protocols. Today, the demands on music experts are correspondingly high. Sometimes several experts are commissioned to clarify technical questions of evidence.
You can avoid arising music law conflicts if you commission a forensic music analysis of your production for legal certainty and quality control as a preventive measure before publication. You will receive an objective analysis of whether your work maintains the required distance from the comparative work of music.
Our law firm works daily with cases of music plagiarism, distortion, adaptation, quotation, intellectual property protection. Get in touch with us. Our experts are here for you.
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.
Mr. F. becomes clear information from his car repair shop: The flat-rate price for the repair of the damage is going to be 700 euros. When the customer picks up the car, however, 833 euros are printed on the invoice.
Reason for this unfortunate misunderstanding is that the employee of the car repair shop only told his customer the net price of his service, absolutely not mentioning the value added taxes that were going to incur.
Mr Falkenberg decided to take legal action, as he previously refused the offer of another garage, which would actually have been cheaper, only because he thought that he was going to pay only 700 euros.
The Karlsruhe Regional Court decided that consumers in Germany must always be able to see immediately and transparently the actual price of goods and services they are going to purchase, always including VAT. It is not permissible to add VAT on the invoice without informing the customer in advance.
In case the seller (or car repair shop owner) does not comply with this regulation, it could face an administrative fine of up to 250,000 euros.
Going home from work is not automatically covered by life insurance
Federal Social Court of Kassel (Case B 2 U 9/19 R)
Sometimes life does not go as planned. The case we are reviewing with you today is unfortunately concerning the tragic car accident of Hannes Hanke.
Mr. Hanke used to work as a chemical worker in his hometown in Germany. One day, just like many others, leaves Mr. Hanke his workplace, leaves the machine running, doesn’t say goodbye to his colleagues and doesn’t log off at the working hours file record. He usually calls his wife before going home, but he doesn’t do that that day either. He gets into his car and goes on the usual and direct way home. In doing so, his car gets caught in oncoming traffic and Hannes Hanke suddenly loses his life in a car crush. His widow is now claiming survivor´s loss benefits from the statutory life insurance. However, the employers’ insurance association rejects her claims as the accident was according to the records on his way home and not at his actual working place.
Ms. Hanke decided then to go to court and let the judges at the Federal Social Court in Kassel decide.
The Tribunal Decision:
They took the following decision: An accident on the usual way home from work is not always covered by the statutory accident insurance. Rather, it must also be clear that the employee actually wants to drive home. This cannot be established in the present case. After a normal working day, it can be assumed that the employee does indeed want to go home. However, this does not apply to the completely atypical procedure that Mr. Hanke had on the day of his death.
So, Ms. Hanke unfortunately had not received her insurance benefits.
What do you think about this case? Do you have questions on German insurance law?