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I sing songs that are not my own (covers)/I would like to offer my cover versions of songs online (e.g. via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or my own website). Do I need a licence?

When it comes to the realm of cover versions, a distinction has to be made first between a cover version and an arrangement.  Generally, a cover version differs from an arrangement in that the cover version is an almost identical rendering of the original, i.e. the recording is limited to replaying the work without any copyright-relevant changes, whereas, in the case of an arrangement, changes are made to the work (s. 23 UrhG). An arrangement can also result from changing the lyrics, the melodies, the instrumentation or line-up, the structure of the song, or the rhythmics etc. The transitions fluctuate here and must be determined in each individual case. There is no clear delineation. In cases of doubt, it is recommended to contact the rightsholders beforehand in order to clarify the situation.

Covering or replaying published works, i.e. cover versions in the sense mentioned above does not require an authorisation. In such cases, the licensing of the musical works is done by GEMA, irrespective which artist performs the works. The original authors of the works then get the full remuneration collected by GEMA. The cover band does (naturally) not participate in such cases as arrangers in the revenues.

Should the interpretation of a third-party work be an arrangement after all, obtaining an authorisation from the creator/rightsholder before the publication or release of such arrangements is mandatory in any case. These authorisations can, however, not be issued by GEMA but only by the creator/rightsholder.

GEMA only registers arrangements as “independent” works if the arranger can provide the arrangement authorisation from the original creator or the publisher.

Please note that you may have to obtain other necessary rights directly from the rightsholders, independently of the licensing process with us. By way of example, we want to mention neighbouring rights/master rights (label) when you use original master recordings and film synchronisation rights/adaptation rights (usually the music publisher) at this point.

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