Information on membership

GEMA Membership: It’s worth being a member

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.

Will my works be protected by GEMA membership?

No, the protection of your works is granted by the German Copyright Act, without any special formalities such as membership of GEMA or notification of works to GEMA being necessary.

Your works therefore enjoy copyright protection irrespective of membership of GEMA.

Why are talking about members of GEMA?

Because GEMA has the status of an association – to be precise the legal status of an economic association by governmental charter in accordance with Art. 22 of the German Civil Code (BGB).

GEMA therefore consists of the composers, lyricists and publishers, who are its members. In other words: GEMA – that means the members themselves.

Who can become a member of GEMA?

  • composers
  • writers of lyrics set to music
  • successors in title of composers and lyricists
  • music publishers

Music arrangers and arrangers or translators of lyrics set to music can become members of GEMA. A condition for the administration of copyrights of arrangers is that their arrangements are personal intellectual creations and that the permission of the rights owner of the original work has been obtained in case this original work is copyright protected.

Membership of GEMA is related to the individual. A band therefore cannot become a member, but rather each member of the band composing music or writing lyrics can make their own application for membership.

Performing artists, who are not simultaneously composers, arrangers or lyricists, cannot become members of GEMA, because they are not creatively active as authors. The society for them is the collecting society for neighbouring rights (GVL, www.gvl.de).

Anyone who works exclusively as a producer or audio carrier manufacturer cannot become a member of GEMA as a publisher.

When does membership of GEMA make sense?

Before deciding to join GEMA, it is important to be sure that membership of GEMA also makes economic sense. This will be the case, when own pieces of music have in the current calendar year been performed in public, broadcast on radio or television or released by third parties on commercially available audio(visual) carriers on a specified scale or when such exploitations are directly imminent.

It should also be borne in mind that members have to pay when they organise the public exploitation of their own works themselves. As the members have assigned their exploitation rights to GEMA, they are responsible for obtaining the licence from GEMA for the exploitation of their own works, when they themselves act as music users – for example by organising concerts or producing audio carriers.

How is membership of GEMA achieved?

Membership is achieved (after completing the admission procedure) by concluding a so-called Deed of Assignment with GEMA. In this way, an author or publisher assigns his copyright exploitation rights or publishing rights to GEMA for administration. GEMA administers these rights as trustee under the Deed of Assignment. This means that GEMA controls how often and on what scope their works are used, collects the royalties payable from the music users and distributes this money to those who are entitled to a share in the works used and it does this on behalf of its members.

What rights do I assign to GEMA under the Deed of Assignment?

You will assign to GEMA as trustee for all countries any and all copyrights in and to your works for specific types of use, as currently vested in you and those accruing to you, devolving or redevolving upon you or otherwise acquired by you during the term of the Deed. The most important types of use in this connection are:

  • the performing right
  • the radio and television broadcast right
  • the mechanical reproduction and distribution right for audio, audiovisual and multimedia carriers
  • the right of public performance of radio and television broadcasts
  • the right of public performance of audio and video carriers
  • the cinema performing right and (to a limited extent) the synchronisation right
  • the statutory royalty claims, such as the so-called “hardware levy” and “blank tape levy”
  • the right of making available to the public, i.e. to provide music in the Internet or in similar manner in such a way that it is accessible to music users at all times and in all places
  • the right to use music as a ringtone melody

Full text of the Deed of Assignment

In this context, the most important types of use are

  • 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”)
  • Making available rights 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
  • Performing rights
  • Broadcasting rights for radio and TV
  • Mechanical reproduction rights and distribution rights for audio, audiovisual and multimedia carriers
  • Communication to the public rights for radio and TV broadcasts
  • Communication to the public rights by way of audio and audiovisual carriers.

     

    How is the revenue from the exploitation of rights distributed?

    Members receive their shares of the revenues according to GEMA’s distribution plan. The distribution plan regulates, for example, the respective split between the composer, lyricist and publisher of a work. Typical splits for GEMA published works are:

    • performances: the composer’s share amounts to 5/12ths, the lyricist’s share to 3/12ths and the publisher’s share to 4/12ths
    • audio carrier reproductions: the composer’s share amounts to 30%, the lyricist’s share to 30% and the publisher’s share to 40%

    What does membership cost?

    A one-off admission fee is payable for admission to GEMA. Authors pay € 90.00 (plus 19% VAT; which makes € 107.10) and music publishers pay € 180.00 (plus 19% VAT; which makes € 214.20).

    In addition, an annual membership subscription has to be paid: for authors it is € 50.00 and for music publishers € 100.00.

    GEMA’s bank connection: Swift/BIC: DEUTDEMM / IBAN: DE84 7007 0010 0240 1800 00 at the Deutsche Bank AG Munich

    Forms of membership

    GEMA differentiates between affiliated, extraordinary and full members. Initially, new members acquire affiliated membership. Affiliated members can apply for extraordinary membership if specific conditions are met. Full membership can be obtained after five years of extraordinary membership and as soon as a specific minimum revenue has been reached.

    Successors in title

    Copyright extends for 70 years beyond the death of the author. This means that after the death of a GEMA author, the Deed of Assignment can be continued with the successor(s) in title to the copyrights. Proof of inheritance is needed, which must be submitted to the Membership Department. If there are several successors in title, they must nominate a joint authorised representative, who will exercise their rights vis-à-vis GEMA. The royalty payments are nevertheless made separately to the individual successors in title.

    The admission procedure

    As soon as you have decided to join GEMA, please complete the Application for Membership. You will find the form on GEMA’s homepage or you can ask GEMA to send it to you.

    Application for Membership for Authors
    Admission Procedure for Authors
    Application for Membership for Music Publishers
    Admission Procedure for Music Publishers
    Sample of Standard Printout
    Forms of Membership