The hybrid General Assembly (AGM) of GEMA members took place between 9 and 11 May 2023. Key resolutions by the members affect online music usage and a new concept for cultural promotion in the online growth market with which GEMA intends to strengthen creatives. The members engaged in intensive discussions about the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence in the creative process. Axel Voss was awarded the GEMA Ehrennadel (GEMA honorary badge) for his contribution to the copyright reform.
“If you weren’t there, you really missed out”, so the summarising statement of this year’s GEMA General Assembly. About 400 composers, lyricists and publishers gathered in Munich between 9 and 11 May, with about 200 members joining the meeting virtually. “The General Assembly is the event of the year for GEMA and essential for our democratic togetherness”, emphasised Dr Ralf Weigand, Chairman of the GEMA Supervisory Board. “The hybrid format of the meeting is a valuable addition but cannot substitute getting together in person. It is only on site where it is possible to forge important contacts, share experiences and get the information directly from the source”, Weigand added. Apart from important resolutions, all eyes were on the supporting programme: By participating in info breakfasts and breakout sessions or by visiting several booths, members were invited to discuss topical items with GEMA staff. The membership party with the award ceremony for the Fred Jay Award was one of the highlights of the three-day event.
Hot topic: Artificial intelligence
One of the main topics among the members was the development in connection with artificial intelligence. “GEMA is already using artificial intelligence in several areas such as when it comes to detecting duplicates in setlists”, Dr Harald Heker pointed out in his speech at the main meeting of the General Assembly. The new generative AI technologies reportedly provide huge opportunities for GEMA: “They can facilitate or speed up workflows in the creative process and open up musical possibilities to music creators, also in order to market their music more effectively.” The biggest challenges according to Heker were, however, the use of data to train AI software: “Without the consent of the author, without any reference and without any remuneration or compensation, of course, a huge volume of data is consolidated. The creatives once more see themselves confronted with technological developments which are walking all over their intellectual property. This, due to a legal situation which is largely unresolved and is lagging behind technological progress.”
Dr Ralf Weigand also pointed out that it would have to be imperative to recognise whether content had been created by man or machine. “It will be a core duty of the collective management organisations to take care that the sources of the material used by AI can be traced back to their origin and that the creators are actually paid adequately for it.” He appealed to the members: “This also means that we need to stick together even more. It is up to us now, as a community of all three professional categories, to widen our perspectives, to join forces and to speak with one voice. We must secure the livelihood of the creatives and must not pass the baton to the machines.”
Resolutions by the General Assembly
In particular, the General Assembly decided on several changes to the regulatory documents which affect various aspects of music online usage. Against the background of new general agreements, there were actually two motions that covered online offerings of the broadcasters: To provide the channels with a simple and legally compliant access to use GEMA repertoire for their increasingly relevant media libraries (“Mediatheken”), the necessary conditions were created so that the synchronisation right in this area will be available from just one point of contact. At the same time, the General Assembly has also passed a motion including rules for a separate distribution for the use of media libraries. Another distribution sector undergoing a major further development was the distribution for social media platforms, the objective of this being that more can be distributed on a usage basis in future when it comes to the monies GEMA collects from YouTube and other platforms.
GEMA is, compared to other collective management organisations at international level, already a trailblazer. A cultural support scheme will be created with a special focus on the online growth sector in future. The General Assembly has set the points for this to happen.
Supervisory Board: Alexander Zuckowski confirmed as a member of the Supervisory Board
In the professional category of composers, Alexander Zuckowski was confirmed as a permanent member of the GEMA Supervisory Board. He therefore succeeds the late Jörg Evers.
GEMA honorary badge for Axel Voss
In the course of the General Assembly, Axel Voss was awarded the GEMA honorary badge for his special achievements regarding the interests of GEMA and its members. Axel Voss has been an MEP since 2009 and was involved in the important political decisions concerning digital matters of the last few years. He accepted the award in person from Dr Heker. The latter summarised in his laudatory speech: “You made a major contribution to one of the most significant and comprehensive modernisations of copyright in the last 20 years. An act of modernisation which has bolstered creatives all over Europe like no other undertaking in recent times has done. Without your solid stance, your unwavering commitment, your steadfastness and your negotiation skills, it would not have been possible to pass the Directive in its current form!”
Voss was very honoured by the award: “I am very happy to be awarded this honorary badge by GEMA. A milestone has been set for creators’ rights protection with the copyright reform. Copyright as a property law must also be protected in the digital world!”
Fred Jay Award for Judith Holofernes and 70-year-membership Ralph Siegel
Judith Holofernes, lyricist and front woman of the band “Wir sind Helden” [We Are Heroes], received the Fred Jay Award in the course of the GEMA membership party. Prize donor, Dr Michael J. Jacobson, son of Fred Jay, presented the award endowed with EUR 15,000. The laudatory speech was held by singer songwriter Francesco Wilking who performed works of Judith Holofernes together with the musician “Karl die Große” (Wencke Wollny) [Charles the Great She].
Apart from that, a number of music creators or publishing personalities honored for publishing houses, who had been members for 70 years, such as publisher Ralph Siegel, or for 50 years, such as composer Gloria Coates and lyricist Timothy Touchton, was honoured at the General Assembly.
Note to media
Go to our digital media centre at www.gema.de/mgv2023
In Germany, GEMA represents the copyright of more than 90,000 members (composers, lyricists and music publishers), and more than two million copyright owners from all over the world. It is one of the largest societies for creators of musical works in the world.