GEMA: Custodian of the creators of music
Anyone who composes music, writes music lyrics or publishes works of music, is entitled to receive reasonable payment whenever such works are performed in public, broadcast, reproduced or used in any other way. This right is regulated worldwide by national copyright laws and international agreements.
However, no composer, lyricist or music publisher is in a position to themselves adequately check where, when, how often and for how long their titles are used. Moreover, individuals cannot keep making sure that they do actually receive their due reward for their work.
It is precisely this that GEMA does in Germany: in its capacity as state-recognised trustee, GEMA administers the exploitation rights of its members.
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Deadlines and important dates
It is possible until 01/11/2020 to submit an application for admission to become an associate member in its previous form including all necessary and complete documents and is going to be decided upon by the GEMA Managing Committee following the recommendation of the Admissions Committees in November 2020.
The new provisions come into effect on 01/01/2021. The two-tier membership structure is going to replace the previous three-tier membership structure. Affiliated members will be re-registered as associate members (new form). Associate members of the previous form shall retain the title “associate member”.
Applications for full membership (previous form) can be submitted by associate members (previous form) until 31/12/2020 provided that they have fulfilled the requirements as per the Statutes. Another condition is the submission of the membership declaration prior to 31/12/2020.
You assign to GEMA as a trustee any and all copyrights world wide that are currently vested in you and those accruing to you, devolving or redevolving upon you or otherwise acquired by you in your works for specific types of exploitation: In this context, the most important types of use are:
- Performing rights
- Broadcasting rights for radio and TV
- Mechanical reproduction rights and distribution rights for audio, audiovisual and multimedia recordings (carriers)
- Communication to the public rights for radio and TV broadcasts
- Communication to the public rights by way of audio and audiovisual recordings
- Film performance rights and (unlimited) film synchronisation right
- Statutory remuneration claims such as the so-called “hardware levy” and “blank media levy” (“blank tape remuneration”)
- The rights of making available to the public i.e. make music available via the internet or similar means in such a way that it is available to music users at any time, anywhere.
- Rights to use music as ringtone melodies
No, the protection of your works is governed by copyright law, namely without you having to fulfil any specific formalities such as joining GEMA as a member or registering works with GEMA.
The protection of the copyright in your works is therefore independent from a GEMA membership.
- Lyricists of texts set to music
- Legal successors of composers, lyricists and music publishers
- Music publishers
Music arrangers and arrangers or translators of texts set to music can also become GEMA members. It is a prerequisite for the management of copyright of arrangers that their arrangements constitute personal intellectual creations and that, in the case of arrangements of an original work protected by copyright, the authorisation by the rightsholder of the original work has been granted.
GEMA membership is for individuals. As a consequence, it is not possible that an entire band becomes a GEMA member. Instead, each of the composer or lyricist band members needs to submit their own membership application.
Mere music performers, i.e. performing artists who are not composers, arrangers or lyricists at the same time, cannot become GEMA members since they are not creatively active as authors. The organisation in charge for them is the Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten (GVL) [German society for the management of neighbouring rights].
Those who are exclusively active as producers or producers of sound recordings cannot become GEMA publisher members.
This is because GEMA is an association - more precisely, it has the legal form of a ‘wirtschaftlicher Verein kraft staatlicher Verleihung’ [commercial association by charter] pursuant to s. 22 of the Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch (BGB) [German Civil Code]. GEMA therefore consists of the composers, lyricists and music publishers (and, where applicable, their legal successors), who are its members. In other words: GEMA is its members.
Before you decide to join, ensure that a GEMA membership is financially sensible for you. This is the case if your musical works have been performed in public, broadcast via radio or TV or released by third parties via commercially published sound/audiovisual recordings to a certain extent during the current calendar year, or if such commercial exploitations are imminent.
In this context, it is also important to take into account that members need to pay if they organise the public exploitation of their works themselves. Since members have assigned their exploitation rights to GEMA, they must, even if they are music users themselves - i.e. if they organise concerts or produce sound recordings -, obtain the licence for the use of their own works from GEMA.
Information about legal succession in relation to copyright
Members participate in the income generated from licensing on the basis of the GEMA distribution plan. The distribution plan governs the distribution split between composers, lyricists and music publishers of a work, among others. Typical distribution splits for published GEMA works are:
- Performances: the composer share is 5/12, the lyricist share 3/12, the publisher share 4/12
- Mechanical reproduction of sound recordings: the composer share is 30%, the lyricist share 30%, the publisher share 40%
There are two different GEMA membership categories: associate and full membership. The category initially intended for new members is the associated membership. You can reach full membership after five years of associate membership and once you have yielded a certain minimum income.
Copyright is valid until 70 years after the death of the author. This is why the Deed of Assignment can be continued with the legal successor(s) after the death of a GEMA author with regards to their copyright. A requirement for this is a certificate of inheritance, which needs to be submitted to the Members and Partners Administration Department. In case there are several legal successors, they need to determine a joint authorised representative who is going to exercise their rights vis-à-vis GEMA. Royalty payments are, however, made individually to each of the legal successors.
There is a one-off admission fee to become a GEMA member. Authors pay € 90.00 (plus 19 % VAT; a total of € 107.10), and music publishers pay € 180.00 (plus 19 % VAT; a total of € 214.20).
In addition, an annual membership fee needs to be paid; it is € 50.00 for authors and € 100.00 for publishers.
GEMA membership is established after (completing the admission procedure) by concluding what is known as a Deed of Assignment with GEMA. Music authors or publishers assign their copyright exploitation rights or publishing rights to GEMA for administration purposes. GEMA manages these rights as a trustee within the scope of the Deed of Assignment. This means that, on behalf of its members, it controls the frequency and scope of exploitation of their works, collects the due licence fees from music users and distributes these monies to those who are involved parties to the works that have been used respectively.