Composers’ rights – German Law

Is the copyright of musicians transferable?

A composer can NOT transfer the copyright of a musical work. This is also not possible by means of a contract. However, it is possible to grant others a right to use the work for particular agreed purpose. In order to do this, a licence agreement must be concluded. This latter contains the most important information about the scope of use and the remuneration.

German copyright law applies until 70 years after the death of the author. This means that as long as the composer is alive, the copyright is in its hands. After his/her death, it passes to his heirs for a total of 70 years. Only then is it considered “in the public domain”. Then anyone may perform the piece of music in public without permission or remuneration.

Attention: If publishers, record companies or performing musicians have acquired a right of exploitation beforehand, this right continues to exist!

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Plagiarism: Must Knows

Plagiarism: are cover and remixes plagiarisms? Do you need a special license to publish your cover?

If a musician wants to publish the work of another in his own interpretation or in edited form, he usually has to acquire the necessary rights first:

Cover version

A cover is a new edition of a piece of music. If lyrics and melody remain the same, musicians have to pay royalties. It does not matter if other instruments are used or if the melody is sung in a different voice pitch than in the original.

Editing

In the case of extensive changes to the melody and/or lyrics of the piece of music and if the original work is still clearly recognizable, the consent of the composer is required and a license agreement must be signed.

Remix

In a remix, the song is remixed or given new instrumentation.  Here, too, the following applies: If the original work is still recognizable, usage rights must be acquired.

Free use

If a piece of music is changed in such a way that it is hardly recognizable, it may be used without the consent of the author. This is called “free use”. In practice, however, there is hardly any free use of musical works.

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    Musicians Copyrights

    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 rights are 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.

    Are you a musician or an artist and you would like to be supported by a competent international music law firm? Contact us. We are the team you are looking for. 

    Three Things To Know About Music Law

    Three Things To Know About Music Law

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

     

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    True or False – Music Law

    True or False – Music Law:

    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.

    So, let a legal check your conditions before making the wrong move. Copyright Infringements are

    legally punishable. 

    What is an artist agreement?

    Artist contract by which an artist is signed exclusively with a record label/label/producer for a certain period of time (usually one to three years). The artist’s contractual partner finances the recordings in advance and is usually granted a large conceptual and artistic right of co-determination, with a rather low license rate for the artist.