More rights for authors and performing artists in Germany

by Karolina Schöler (HARTE-BAVENDAMM Rechtsanwälte – Germany)

The German Bundesrat and Bundestag again have passed a reform of the German Copyright Law (BT-Drucksache 18/10637 dated December 13th, 2016). The reform aims at the improvement of the author’s ability to enforce his right to claim a fair and reasonable remuneration for the exploitation of his work.

The revised Copyright Law provides that authors are to be compensated in a fair and reasonable manner for the exploitation of their work.

In order to facilitate this, the revised Copyright Law provides for a rather far-reaching right of information of the author. According to the new Sections 32 lit. d) and lit. e) of the German Copyright Act, the author can request his contractual partner or the contractual partner’s licensee once a year to provide him with complete and accurate information on the scope and extent of the exploitation of his work and the earnings the contractual partner generated by and in connection with this exploitation. This makes it easier for the author to claim, as the case may be, an additional remuneration for the exploitation.

Furthermore, Section 40a of the revised German Copyright Act provides for a time limit in case the author has granted exclusive exploitation rights to his contractual partner against payment of a lump-sum. According to this new provision, after ten years the author is free to have his work exploited by a third party even if he had granted exclusive rights to his contractual partner before. The first contractual partner still can exploit the work, but his exclusive rights become non-exclusive.

Moreover, the new provision of Section 79b of the German Copyright Act provides for an additional remuneration of the author in case his work is – at a later date – exploited in a way that was unknown at the time the initial agreement was made.

The new provisions are mandatory and cannot be negotiated by the parties. They only apply to contracts or circumstances that were concluded or originated after the date the new provisions became effective. The new provisions have not yet entered into force but will become effective on March 1st, 2017.

The reform of the German Copyright Law also provides for a change of the wording of Section 27 of the Law of the Copyright Collecting Societies. According to the new wording, the collecting society is entitled to distribute the revenues from the exploitation according to a fix distribution schedule in case the society represents various right owners.