GEMA stands for Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (Society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights). It was founded in 1933, the head offices are in Berlin and Munich, and there are also some regional offices.
1.) Task of GEMA
GEMA’s task is to enable third parties to use copyrighted works and to give authors a financial share in this use. For this reason, there are also different tariffs for the many different types of use. These can be found on the GEMA website.
Authors (i.e. composers / lyricists) and music publishers can become members of GEMA, i.e. only individuals. In the case of a band, therefore, only the individual composers can become members. There are three different types of membership with GEMA:
a) Affiliated member
you become an affiliated member as soon as you sign the Deed of Assignment. This is the first level of membership and consequently most members are only affiliated. The affiliated member has no direct right of co-determination, but can only exert influence through delegates to be elected.
b) Associate member
To be an associate member, the member must demonstrate professional ability. This can be done by providing proof of having successfully completed a composition course at a conservatoire or by submitting scores. It is also possible to submit other documents (e.g. sound recordings) which show that the member has the professional ability. The advantage over affiliate membership is that one can later become a full member.
c) Full member
is only possible after 5 years of membership. The prerequisite is that one has received a total of 30,000.00 euros in remuneration for one’s work as an author in five consecutive years. In addition, authors must have received a minimum annual income of 1,800.00 euros in four consecutive years within this five-year period. Full members have a direct say in the annual general meetings of GEMA. At these meetings, resolutions are passed on amendments to the Deed of Assignment and the distribution plan, among other things.
3.) Costs of membership
The admission fee for authors is a one-time fee of 90.00 Euro. The annual membership fee is 50.00 Euros. As a rule, the membership fee is offset against the income of the author. However, if the income is not sufficient and the GEMA account does not show a credit balance, the membership fee must be paid to GEMA.
4.) Transfer of rights to GEMA
While the moral right is not transferable, most of the exploitation rights are transferred to GEMA when the author signs the Deed of Assignment. The contract is now concluded for an indefinite period and can be terminated with a first of six months to the end of a calendar year (see resolution of the General Meeting of 26/27 April 2016).
In deviation from this, the authorisation agreement regarding the transfer of online rights can be terminated annually with a notice period of three months to the end of the year. After successful termination, the author can therefore exercise the online rights himself again.
The transfer of rights means that anyone can exploit the author’s rights if they pay GEMA the corresponding tariff. This is because GEMA is subject to the so-called “obligation to conclude agreements”. Only in exceptional cases can it therefore refuse a transfer of rights. The author therefore no longer has any influence on who is allowed to interpret his songs. As a rule, he cannot prevent recordings with interpretations that do not correspond to his artistic taste.
It should also be mentioned that as a GEMA member, you are obliged to register all published works with GEMA. This means that you can no longer license your music to third parties GEMA-free. Even the use of one’s own works, e.g. on the band’s homepage, is subject to GEMA if e-commerce is conducted via the website. In principle, this is already the case if CDs / downloads are offered via the website.
5.) Licensing income
GEMA receives income from the following music users or organisations, among others: Innkeepers, discotheque and club operators, concert organisers, sound carrier manufacturers, equipment and blank media manufacturers, television and radio broadcasters, online service providers and foreign collecting societies. The money collected can be roughly divided into the following categories:
a) Performance and broadcasting
In mid-2012, the GEMA General Meeting decided that the controversial Pro procedure would be replaced by the so-called “InkA procedure” (scheduled to start in 2014). This is intended to distribute the income from individual events more directly to the authors.
b) Phonogram production
It is important to know here that settlement is based on the sound carriers produced and not sold.
c) Settlement dates
2 January / 1 July: Reproduction of phonograms
1 April: Public performance
1 July: radio / television
quarterly: foreign settlements
If you receive a statement, you have 12 months to object to it.
If you have any questions about GEMA or other issues, I will be happy to advise you. It is not necessary for you to come to my office for this. You can send me your concerns in advance by e-mail (also with attachments). I will then make you a non-binding offer for a mandate and, if necessary, contact you by telephone. A mandate only comes into effect when the mandate is issued in writing.