Copyright » Collecting societies

Collecting societies

Collecting societies exercise those rights that are difficult or impossible for individual artists to take advantage of themselves. Whether for practical reasons – because it is impossible to control particular uses, such as broadcasting music on the radio or in pubs. Or the reproduction of works of art in newspapers and books. Or because the law generally allows a specific use for a fee that can be enforced only by a collecting society: For example, the lending of books, CDs, and DVDs in libraries is covered by library royalties and private copying is covered by surcharges on equipment used for copying (copy machines, CD and DVD burners). 

Collecting societies in Germany exist for originators 

For visual artists (and in the music sector), the collecting societies also handle the so-called first-window rights in addition to statutory compensation claims (according to §§ 32 ff UrhG  (German Copyright Act)), i.e. authorizations for use of specific works are granted to individual users.   

The members of the collecting societies entrust these societies with exercising the rights listed in the collecting agreement (or membership agreement), with the result that these rights can then be exclusively assigned by the collecting society. This applies nationally and internationally because the collecting societies ensure the international protection of these rights within the scope of reciprocal agreements concluded with foreign partners. Membership in only a national collecting society is thus sufficient; if artists live abroad for extended periods or if the works are used abroad, the foreign collecting society automatically handles the implementation of rights.

In addition to the statutory compensation claims, for visual artists, the collecting societies also handle reproduction and distribution rights, i.e. the right to reprint the works in books, newspapers and magazines or to present them on the Internet. If the artist has already concluded a direct agreement with the publisher or the website owner, it is important to inform the collecting society. This also applies to agreements with users in other countries, so that the collecting society in the country in which the use takes place does not prohibit said use.

In some countries, works may be included in catalogs without the artist’s approval and without the artist receiving any remuneration. Generally, it is permissible in the context of reporting current events, such as exhibition openings, performances, or exchange programs, to reprint individual works without having to obtain a permit.  

For performing artists, the collecting societies only handle statutory remuneration claims. These compensation claims usually arise only in case of valid first-window rights, for example, when the recording of a stage performance is broadcast on TV. The question of whether the performance may be recorded must be directly negotiated between the artist and the organizer. On the other hand, radio broadcasts, public screenings or other second-window rights must be reported to the collecting society so that second-window fees may be calculated. This means that artists should report such uses to the collecting societies. In some cases, the users themselves handle the reporting.

Membership and fees

By entering into a collecting agreement with the VG BILD-KUNST, visual artists transfer their rights. The contract is concluded between the holder of rights (individual or legal entity) and the VG BILD-KUNST; model contracts and information sheets can be found on the website under the heading of ‘Verträge.’
Membership is free. 

Artists and organizers do not incur any costs when the Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten - GVL (Society for Performing Rights) administers their rights. The collecting agreements that must be signed to transfer the rights can be found on the GVL website.

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