Dual memberships: SUISA, and what else?

SUISA manages the rights for its members globally. You should carefully review and consider the relevant effort and income if you wanted to become a member of several authors’ societies. Text by Claudia Kempf and Manu Leuenberger

Dual memberships: SUISA, and what else?

It is not a problem for rights management to deal with members of several collecting societies who are playing the same band. One example is the Swiss-German pop duo Boy, shown during a live performance at the SiriusXM studios in New York City on 03 April 2013. Valeska Steiner (r.) is a SUISA member, Sonja Glass (l.) is registered with a sister society abroad. (Photo: Rob Kim / Getty Images)

SUISA has entered into reciprocal agreements with over 100 sister societies globally. These agreements provide SUISA members with a big advantage: They can exercise their musical activities outside of Switzerland – the payment of the relevant copyright remuneration is made in the usual manner by its trusted society, SUISA.

If you live outside of Switzerland or the Principality of Liechtenstein, you can also become a SUISA member. Last but not least, it is also possible to be a member of another collective management organisation in addition to your SUISA membership. The following FAQs are intended to summarise what you need to consider when contemplating a so-called dual membership:

What should I consider before applying for dual membership?
If you become a member of a sister society abroad – on top of your SUISA membership – you have to expect an additional administrative effort. In the case of dual memberships, you need to deal with the regulations and formalities of several societies.
You also need to consider the extra cost: Some societies charge admission fees, respectively annual membership fees. Furthermore, some sister societies’ services may be fee-based, whereas at SUISA, they are covered by the general administration cost deduction from distributions. We recommend that you thoroughly analyse any one-off and regularly recurring costs of memberships with other societies.
Furthermore, you should consider any potential effects on the pension payments from SUISA: In the case of dual memberships, you receive your remuneration directly from other societies. This reduces the level of the remuneration distributed via SUISA, which, in turn, may have an influence on the calculation of the relevant income for your pension entitlement which you have as a SUISA member from your 63rd birthday onwards. Find more information on SUISA’s pension scheme here.

What is the use of a dual membership anyway?
In the case of a dual membership, remuneration for usages from a specific territory are not distributed via SUISA but via the respective society based abroad. An author whose works are performed or broadcast a lot in Argentina could become a direct member of the Argentinian society (Sadaic). Due to the dual membership with Sadaic, the respective royalties would be paid out more quickly after the performance, resp. broadcast, since Sadaic does transfer the payment directly to the author rather than to SUISA in the first place. SUISA has, however, recently created a new distribution schedule for payments from abroad and harmonised the settlement dates better with the dates of the sister societies so that the remuneration can be paid out more quickly.
In the case of a dual membership, members must clarify any queries relating to settlements, pay-outs and formalities directly with the society abroad. The only difference in the level of remuneration is that SUISA takes off a cost deduction of 4% when distributing royalties from abroad. In the case of rights being managed abroad, the tariffs and distribution rules prevalent in the respective territory are applicable. The cost deduction of 4% thus does not apply in the case of a direct membership with a second society, but only for its own “home territory”, in the case study of Sadaic, this would mean for Argentina (only). The society based abroad would, however, take off a cost deduction for all other territories, just like SUISA would.
It is therefore recommended to review and consider the effort and income carefully. This applies especially against a background of territorial limitations dissolving in the online sector, and SUISA being able to manage the online rights for its members across all of Europe (and other countries) directly, i.e. without any intermediate steps via a sister society. Please also refer to the next FAQ.

Does it make sense to assign online rights to several societies?
Since August 2013, SUISA has been licensing online rights at a pan-European level. This means: SUISA collects its members’ remuneration from iTunes, for example, for all of Europe. For SUISA members, this means that they receive their income from the online sector directly (without any intermediate step via sister societies) and thus more quickly. A dual membership for online rights makes no sense in this case.

Do I have to change society if I move to another country?
If you have not excluded any territories from your Administration Agreement with SUISA, then SUISA manages the rights of its members globally, irrespective of its members’ residence. You can therefore be a SUISA member irrespective of where you are a resident or where you are relocating to.

What do I have to consider when I change societies?
We recommend that you check the membership admission conditions of the new society up front. All details and documents for a SUISA membership can be accessed on the SUISA website, both for authors and publishers. Only when you are sure that your admission with the new society has been successful, should you terminate your relationship with your former society. You should follow the same procedure if you wish to become a member of an additional society just for a specific territory.
Another item to consider: periods of notice. At SUISA, it is possible to give 6 months’ notice for individual territories per the end of a year (31st December). Furthermore, it is important to know that certain societies abroad manage performing and broadcasting rights only, or mechanical rights only. Before you withdraw rights from a society, you should check whether the new society really manages all rights – as is the case with SUISA.

What happens in terms of double taxation in the case of dual memberships?
You should also establish tax-related matters in the case of dual memberships. Detailed information on the topic of double taxation would go way beyond the scope of this article. It might be useful to consult a tax advisor in this context. SUISA has collated some information on the fact sheet “Notes on double taxation” which can be accessed at www.suisa.ch/urheberdokumente.

What happens to my IPI number when I change society?
The IPI number is an international identification number of an author or a publisher. The number is unique and remains unchanged, irrespective of the society you are a member of. Further information on the IPI number can be found on our website in the section law & guidance, or in our members’ magazine SUISAinfo, edition 2.12 (in German, PDF, 3.2 MB).

Does it make sense to become a SUISA member if my works are exclusively used in a territory abroad?
If the entire repertoire of an author is exclusively used in one single country outside of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, it might make sense to apply for membership with the relevant society in that country. It does, however, always depend on your individual situation. It pays back to get good advice, not just in this case: Our members of staff of the SUISA members’ department are happy to help with any queries relating to (dual) membership and changing society:

Author(s)
d/e: authors(at)suisa(dot)ch, 044 485 68 28
f: authorsF(at)suisa(dot)ch, 021 614 32 32
i: autori(at)suisa(dot)ch, 091 950 08 28

Publishers
All languages: publishers(at)suisa(dot)ch, 044 485 68 20

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