Legal consequences of concert cancellations for Covid-19

Regrettably, owing to the coronavirus, some musical events have had to be cancelled. What are the consequences of such cancellations for the artists and organisers concerned? Is the artist still entitled to the contractual fee? Text by Céline Troillet

Legal consequences of concert cancellations for Covid-19

Empty stages and concert halls: what is the legal situation regarding events cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions? (Photo: Disq)

The coronavirus is a source of discomfort and uncertainty for us all. We must adapt as well as we can to these unprecedented circumstances since they are, for the time being at least, beyond our control. There are no clear answers to the health and economic issues that this crisis has raised, and there is great legal uncertainty. There are many outstanding questions.

Do you have a contract?

If you have a contract (or electronic exchange), see if it regulates the cancellation of the concert on grounds of force majeure or pandemic, and what effect such a cancellation has on fees. Albeit possible, this is seldom the case. Unfortunately, when a contract does provide for such cancellation, the parties usually agree that fees are not due in that event. Contracts rarely provide for a reduction in costs or the repayment of expenses already sustained.

A. Absence of a contract

If there is no written agreement, what legal provisions are applicable? To find out, you must proceed step by step:

1. Consider what type of contract under the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) might be binding on you: Swiss law, unfortunately, does not prescribe how an artist’s engagement contract is to be legally classified, and there is no precedent or case law in this regard. Therefore, there are several possible interpretations. Moreover, each case must be considered individually and you should seek legal advice in this regard.

The possible types of contract used for artists are: the contract for works and services (Article 363 et seq. CO), the employment contract (Article 319 et seq. CO), or the agency contract (Article 394 et seq. CO). The conditions of the individual contract types, and the differences between them, are described in section B below.

2. Once it is established what type of contract you are bound by, check the following explanatory notes on the types of contract (also see section B) to what extent compensation might be possible.

3. If the contract does not match any of the contract types provided for in the Code of Obligations, reference must be made to a general provision of contract law dealing with the consequences of non-performance of an obligation., i.e. Article 119 CO.

⇒ Principle and conditions of Article 119 CO:

This article stipulates that if, after a contract is concluded, circumstances intervene which make it impossible for one of the parties to perform its obligations (for reasons not attributable to that party), then the party is no longer bound by its contractual obligations. The law considers “subsequent” impossibility (i.e. after the contract is concluded), which presupposes the realisation of the three following conditions:

• the obligor (the party liable for performance of an obligation) is no longer able to perform (objective impossibility);
• the impossibility must arise from circumstances after the conclusion of the contract. Chance occurrences (beyond the control of a party) are a good example;
• the impossibility is not attributable to the obligor (it is not his fault if performance is made impossible).

⇒ Objective impossibility not attributable to the obligor:

It is for the court to determine whether the obligation is impossible to perform for reasons not attributable to the obligor.

When public order or internal security is threatened, as in the case of a pandemic, the Federal Council, for Switzerland, is obligated under the Federal Constitution to issue ordinances and take emergency decisions (Article 185 of the Federal Constitution). Within the framework of its discretionary power, the court is required to take into account the rules and decisions issued by the federal authorities. It follows that, in the case of concert cancellations proceeding from official decisions, the existence of an objective impossibility not attributable to the obligor would probably be recognised.

⇒ Legal consequences for the parties:

An impossibility within the meaning of Article 119 CO releases the obligor (the party who has to perform an obligation) from its obligation as well as the creditor (the party for which the obligor is required to perform) (Article 119(2) CO).

In other words, when a contract is concluded (between an artist and a concert organiser), the parties (the artist and the organiser) are both released from their obligations (the artist is no longer required to perform on stage; the organiser is no longer required to pay the artist a fee) if, through no fault of the artist’s (i.e. because of Covid-19 and not for a reason attributable to the artist), the person who was supposed to act (the artist) is prevented from fulfilling his obligation (to perform on stage).

B. The individual types of contract under the Swiss Code of Obligations

The contract for works and services (Article 363 et seq. CO):

Generally, the performances of an artist or group of artists fall within the scope of the contract for works and services (the artist delivers a single performance, based on a pre-defined programme, which is equated with a work).

Here, the case of force majeure is governed by Article 378 CO. This article provides that, where completion of a work is rendered impossible by a chance occurrence affecting the principal, the contractor is entitled to payment for the work already done and to reimbursement of any expenses incurred that were not included in the price.

If a concert is formally cancelled for coronavirus-related reasons, the impossibility for the principal (the organiser of the concert) to perform the contract should be recognised insofar as the principal is unable to stage the artist’s concert through no fault of his own. As a result, Article 378 CO would apply, and the artist would be entitled to remuneration for any work already performed (e.g. rehearsals) and his expenses.

The employment contract (Article 319et seq. CO):

Under certain circumstances, the artist’s contract can be deemed an employment contract (a subordinate relationship between the artist and the organiser, where the artist’s obligation to play music is determined by the employer’s needs rather than by his own as an artist).

Article 324 CO regulates the employee’s salary if he is prevented from working. Whether or not this provision applies to cases of force majeure, i.e. the cancellation of a concert by reason of coronavirus-related measures, is disputed. Most would answer in the affirmative, which would mean that the artist would be entitled to continued pay.

Agency contract (Article 394 et seq. CO):

If the artist’s contract falls neither under the contract of works and services nor under the employment contract, it will generally be classified as an agency contract (the artist seen as an agent performing a service for the organiser).

The agency contract does not provide for cases of force majeure. As a result, if a concert is cancelled for coronavirus-related reasons, Article 119 CO would probably apply and, accordingly, no remuneration would be payable. A reservation should be made in the event of untimely cancellation (e.g. immediately before the scheduled performance). In that case, compensation (but not the fee) could be granted to the artist for the loss sustained (Article 404 CO).

C. Conclusion

It is important to address the possible cancellation of the concert and the consequences on your legal relationship in the artist’s contract. If these points are regulated and the circumstance occurs, the artist and the organiser know what they can expect and claim from each other and can thus avoid financial and other damages.

In absence of a written contract, or if the contract does not regulate this point, the situation is likely to be more difficult. Since the legal nature of the artist’s contract is not clear, the relationship between the organiser and the artist will have to be interpreted to determine which of the three contract categories it is subject to (contract for works and services, employment contract or agency contract). The legal consequences will vary depending on the applicable rules. Payment of the artist’s fee will be justified in some cases, and not in others.

As you can see, there is no clear-cut answer determining the legal consequences of concert cancellations due to coronavirus. The circumstances must be appraised case by case. In absence of a contract, the ideal solution would be for the parties to agree a compromise. A postponement of the service or the total or partial reimbursement of your expenses could be possible solutions.

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If bands and event promoters organise a concert togetherIf bands and event promoters organise a concert together The event organiser of a concert has to pay the copyright licence fee. How does it affect the legal situation, if musicians and organisers jointly run the performance by way of a cooperation? The concert organiser is responsible for paying the copyright licence fee in the case of artist engagement agreements. It occurs that events are organised by the bands themselves or in cooperation with third parties. In such cases, the type of cooperation between the band and the organiser determines who has to pay the copyright licence fee. Read more
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Regrettably, owing to the coronavirus, some musical events have had to be cancelled. What are the consequences of such cancellations for the artists and organisers concerned? Is the artist still entitled to the contractual fee? Text by Céline Troillet

Legal consequences of concert cancellations for Covid-19

Empty stages and concert halls: what is the legal situation regarding events cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions? (Photo: Disq)

The coronavirus is a source of discomfort and uncertainty for us all. We must adapt as well as we can to these unprecedented circumstances since they are, for the time being at least, beyond our control. There are no clear answers to the health and economic issues that this crisis has raised, and there is great legal uncertainty. There are many outstanding questions.

Do you have a contract?

If you have a contract (or electronic exchange), see...read more

Online licensing activities require early work registrations

From a sales perspective, online music distribution provides enormous opportunities. With little effort, music can be made available to a global audience within an instant. The distribution of copyright royalties, however, is complex when it comes to online usages. This is also due to the fact that the processes differ from those for performing and broadcasting rights. The most important advice is: First, register the work with SUISA as early as possible, then publish it online. Text by Andreas Wegelin and Manu Leuenberger

Online licensing activities require early work registrations

If you distribute your music via an online provider, it will be advantageous if you stick to the following rule of thumb: First, register the work with SUISA, then publish it online. (Photo: Anutr Yossundara / Shutterstock.com)

When it comes to the internet, trade activities are not halted by national borders. Especially in cases when the goods are not physical but only purely digital in terms of their transport from the provider to the customer – as is the case for music. Online music providers such as Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube take their products directly to the audience via streaming or download: On its journey between the internet platform and the playback devices of the listeners, the music product does not pass customs, nor are there any intermediaries (apart from the telecoms provider of the internet access).

The following is decisive in this chain of commerce: When it comes to online music-distribution, territorial limitations have not only been lifted to a great extent for the consumer but also with regards to the licensing of the copyright. The distribution process differs fundamentally from the existing practice in the “offline sector”, i.e. for performing or broadcasting rights or the licensing of sound recordings. SUISA only issues licences for the territory of Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein in the offline sector, but for all works that have been used, including those of the members of our sister societies abroad. Reciprocal representation agreements ensure that the members of other sister societies obtain the share in the works that have been used in Switzerland. The same also applies vice versa: If works by SUISA members are performed abroad, the sister society in charge for the territory in question collects the remuneration and passes it to SUISA for onward distribution to its rightsholders.

This works differently in the online sector. Another practice has established itself since the Recommendation of the EU Competition Commission from 2005, according to which more competition should be created during the online exploitation of copyright. The corresponding EU Directive which was determined five years ago states that each rightsholder can choose for their online licences whether they want to issue them directly or whether they wish to instruct a partner such as a collective management organisation of their choice to manage them across Europe (also known as pan-European).

SUISA active since 2012 for online direct licensing

The major music publishers have assigned the rights management for the shares in their works on a cross-border basis 10 years ago. This type of licensing is called direct licensing. In the field of cross-border usages, rightsholders, i.e. publishers or collective management organisations, specifically account the royalties for their repertoire directly with the “Digital Service Providers” (in short: DSPs) such as Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube. This means: If users abroad listen to works by SUISA members on platforms by the online music providers, SUISA collects the remuneration for such usages directly from the provider. There are no more “intermediaries” between SUISA and the Digital Service Provider as it exists in the traditional offline sector by way of a foreign sister society.

Many societies in Europe have already transitioned to this global direct licensing practice of their members’ works. Since 2012, SUISA has been licensing the rights of its members not only for Switzerland but also for other territories on a cross-border basis, and that with a constantly increasing number of online music providers. In the beginning, these included the European countries, since 2018, more and more territories are added outside of Europe. In the meantime, SUISA is usually issuing global licences to the DSPs with the exception of the following: USA, Canada, South America, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Syria and Australasia. There are plans, however, to expand into these territories in the future.

Direct licensing has had the consequence that SUISA could only issue licence invoices for works for which it had the relevant documentation, since it is the individual work share that is now relevant, not just the fact whether an author is a SUISA member or not.

Nevertheless, it happens often that Digital Service Providers receive invoices from several collective management organisations for shares in the same work. This leads to so-called “overclaims” or “underclaims”. Such overclaims or underclaims (in terms of rights) result from a lack of clarity among the societies issuing the invoices who can claim the remuneration for which shares in a work in which territory for their principals. There is often also a situation of “no claims” i.e. when no society issues an invoice.

This has led to a scenario where the providers paid rightsholders more than the agreed remuneration in the case of “overclaims” and too little or nothing in the case of “underclaims” or “no claims”. There are also Service Providers which withhold the payment in the case of “overclaims”. If thus the claims of all invoicing collective management organisations for a work exceed 100% (shares), no royalties are paid as long as it is not defined who is actually permitted to invoice for which share.

Invoicing process with online music providers

A working group of the collective management organisations, major publisher and the most important online music providers has taken care of this issue and agreed to the following solution:

Issuing invoices to a DSP happens in several steps. The collective management organisation receives usage data from the DSP. Based on these usage reports, which contain a period of one or three months, the provider receives an invoice for all work shares in titles for which the society holds the usage rights of an author or a publisher. If the invoices that have been issued by various collective management organisations do not match for one work title, so-called “disputes” arise.

The societies have 18 months to resolve such conflicts of claims. Within said period, SUISA checks the data of the usage reports once more and compares it with the updated SUISA work documentation. If, during this search, new correlating entries are detected, they will be invoiced retroactively. Whatever has not been resolved after 18 months shall fall under the so-called “residuals”; this is the licensing remuneration for work shares which have not or only partially been invoiced (“underclaims” and “no claims”).

The “residuals”, the remuneration that has not been claimed from the DSP from “underclaims” and “no claims” shall be paid out by SUISA as a supplement to the works used in the same distribution period. A work that has not been registered at that point could therefore not receive a supplement.

Register the work first, then publish it online

The most important advice for SUISA members who make their compositions available via online music distribution channels, is: First, register the work with SUISA as early as possible, do not publish it online before!

If you follow this rule of thumb, you create a basis whereby works can be detected from the beginning in online usage reports and can be invoiced to the Digital Service Providers. The distribution process with the online music providers is subject to deadlines and the attention of the audience on the internet is often rather ephemeral. When you register works too late, there is the risk that usages are not detected and royalties cannot be allocated.

If the work registration takes place before the first recording of the work is published for streaming or downloading, SUISA can claim the work shares with the Digital Service Providers from the very beginning. In order to enable a simple automatic identification, the metadata of the works registration should be the same as the data which the DSP has for the work.

Metadata is additional information and particulars which describes other data in more detail. Thanks to such additional information, it is possible to determine and thus find individual elements during searches within big data volumes. A musical work title ideally comprises, apart from the usual details on composer, lyricist, publisher etc., information on the performer(s), and, if applicable, alternative work titles of versions in other languages as well as remix/edit versions, such as “song title – radio edit” or “song title – extended version”. Complete and correct metadata provides a great advantage when it comes to finding a concordance during the automated matching of the usage reports with the works database.

These requirements are vital for a work to be correctly distributed in all of the territories directly licensed by SUISA and with all of the online music providers directly licensed by SUISA.

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From a sales perspective, online music distribution provides enormous opportunities. With little effort, music can be made available to a global audience within an instant. The distribution of copyright royalties, however, is complex when it comes to online usages. This is also due to the fact that the processes differ from those for performing and broadcasting rights. The most important advice is: First, register the work with SUISA as early as possible, then publish it online. Text by Andreas Wegelin and Manu Leuenberger

Online licensing activities require early work registrations

If you distribute your music via an online provider, it will be advantageous if you stick to the following rule of thumb: First, register the work with SUISA, then publish it online. (Photo: Anutr Yossundara / Shutterstock.com)

When it comes to the internet, trade activities are not halted by national...read more

Information on live streams for SUISA members

The corona measures led to a loss of performance and earning opportunities for music creators and to a painful loss of live music for music consumers. Live streaming therefore enjoys great popularity, especially in these times, and takes on a pertinent role in the cultural industry. Text by Michael Wohlgemuth

Information on live streams for SUISA members

Music via video as a replacement for cancelled concerts: Jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi played his work “We Need To Change” for the series of articles “Music for Tomorrow”; you can listen to it and watch it on the SUISAblog and the social media channels SUISA Music Stories. (Photo: screen shot video Cyril Bondi)

There are numerous possibilities to transmit live streams: The choice ranges from your own website, and social media platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, Instagram or Dailymotion, to pure live streaming platforms such as Twitch. In addition, smaller international and national platforms are currently appearing, where music creators can register for live streaming and share any income generated via the platform.

The following guide is intended to provide SUISA members with assistance in the live streaming jungle:

Information for musicians who organise live streams themselves

Do I/we need a licence from SUISA?
Be it as a band, singer-songwriter, orchestra or choir: If you organise a live stream on your own website or social media channel and only perform music that you have written yourself and/or that is in the public domain (the author has died more than 70 years ago), you do not need a licence from SUISA.

But be careful: This type of “own use” or using your own music yourself, on your own web channels, is only allowed if all songs are 100% written by the performers themselves. As soon as third parties are involved in only one of the performed works, it is no longer considered to be a pure type of “own use”. So if there are co-authors who do not participate in the performance of the live stream, or if a publisher has a stake in the song or otherwise performs protected music by others (e.g. cover versions), you need a licence from SUISA in accordance with the “Licensing Terms and Conditions Live Streams”.

An exception applies to non-commercial live streams on social media platforms: These are covered by the agreements concluded by SUISA and other rights management entities with the social media platforms and therefore do not usually need to be licensed separately. SUISA currently has agreements with Youtube and Facebook (including Instagram). SUISA is currently negotiating with Dailymotion, Vimeo and Twitch, to which the same will apply.

Non-commercial in this context means that no money is demanded for the live stream and it is not produced for a company. SUISA also considers donation campaigns whose income is entirely allocated to people in need to be non-commercial.

Livestreams from DJ sets
DJ sets contain not only compositions, but also recordings whose rights are held by the recording company or “labelˮ. Since very few DJs use exclusively self-composed and self-published music, several licenses must usually be obtained for live streams of DJ sets: Copyright requires a licence from SUISA (with the exception of non-commercial live streams on social media, see section “Does it require a licence from SUISA?”) and the rights to the recordings played – the so-called neighbouring rights – require licences from the record companies/labels. For DJ sets on social media, the platforms themselves are responsible for this.
The only platform currently known to SUISA that has signed contracts for DJ live streams with most major labels is Mixcloud.

The live stream of my concert or DJ set on social media was blocked: Why and how can I avoid that this happens?
The reason for content being blocked is usually the performance of third-party music and related to this the lack of a certain licence agreement of the social media platform with a rightsholder (often a label or a publisher). In principle, social media companies are responsible for the content on their platforms and block unlicensed content using audio recognition technologies for their own protection.

The easiest way to avoid content being blocked on social media is to mainly perform self-composed music in the case of a live concert. Due to complex legal reasons, it is recommended that cover bands host the live streams not on social media but on their own website.

DJ sets on social media platforms should be avoided if possible, unless you use your own recordings. The reason for this is that very few labels allow the live streaming of their recordings on social media. Facebook and YouTube, in particular, have mature audio recognition technologies and thus very quickly detect unlicensed recordings. If you leave a recording of the live stream with unlicensed music on the platform, it will be automatically blocked by the software at the very latest.

Can I earn money with my live streams?
You can earn money with your live streams in many different ways:
The simplest form is to offer the live stream against payment. On your own website, for example, you could publish the link to the live stream against payment of a fee. This payment model could also be transferred to social media platforms by providing the live stream only in a closed group to which the audience only gets access for a fee.

At this point in time, classic payment systems such as bank accounts, for example, which are independent of the social media platform, still have to be used. However, it is to be expected that social media platforms will increasingly offer integrated payment solutions with which viewers can pay directly via the platform. For example, Facebook has announced that it will enable direct payments via the Facebook Live Platform.

Other potential sources of income are, for example, advertising breaks or live stream sponsoring. Merchandising articles could also be offered as part of the live stream or voluntary donations could be made possible.

Information for musicians whose live stream is carried out by an organiser

Who can be considered as the organiser or promoter?
Live stream organisers are mainly concert promoters and club companies, but also (media) companies, foundations, associations or other societies are possible.

Where can I access the live streams of these events?
On the one hand on social media, on the other hand also on own platforms, which were created especially for live streaming events. One national example is Artonair. An international example of such a live stream organizer is Stageit.

I was/we were asked for a live stream: Does the organiser have to pay me for my performance?
SUISA is basically of the opinion that engagements for live streams should be compared to engagements for concerts and that a fee is therefore appropriate. This should be regulated in an engagement contract together with the modalities of appearance.

Are the organisers also responsible for the copyright licence fees?
Yes, just as in the offline area, the organisers must take care of the copyright in the performed music. International providers need a licence from each affected rightsholder of the performed music (collecting societies, publishers etc.). A licence from SUISA is sufficient for national providers.

In this context, it is particularly important to study the general terms and conditions of the respective provider and to make sure that you do not grant the organiser any rights which you cannot or do not want to assign. For example, as a SUISA member, you should take special care not to grant performing rights to the organiser, as SUISA will already take care of this for you.

Does SUISA pay a fee for my appearance in a live stream?
If a live stream has been licensed by SUISA to an organiser, the authors and publishers involved in the music can expect to receive corresponding remuneration from SUISA (less the current cost rate of 15%). The amount of compensation depends primarily on whether and how much income has been generated by the organiser. The royalties are distributed on the basis of the programme, the “set listˮ, which the broadcaster submits to SUISA.

Further information:
As a SUISA member, do you have any legal questions or concerns in connection with live streams? Our legal department is happy to advise you on this: legalservices (at) suisa (dot) ch

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  1. M. Badertscher says:

    Was bedeutet “nicht-kommerzielle Livestreams” genau?
    Wenn der Stream für alle sichtbar ist (keine Zugangsbeschränkung), man Musik im Hintergrund laufen lässt und der Zuschauer freiwillig für den Stream etwas bezahlen kann aber nicht muss, dann ist das doch auch kommerziell? Der Streamer verdient ja auch damit. Einfach auf freiwilliger Basis.

    • Michael Wohlgemuth says:

      Besten Dank für die berechtigte Frage. In der Tat würden wir solche Livestreams auch als kommerziell betrachten. Sobald in irgendeiner Form Geld fliesst, handelt es sich aus unserer Sicht um ein kommerzielles Angebot.
      Beste Grüsse, Michael Wohlgemuth, SUISA Rechtsdienst

Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

The corona measures led to a loss of performance and earning opportunities for music creators and to a painful loss of live music for music consumers. Live streaming therefore enjoys great popularity, especially in these times, and takes on a pertinent role in the cultural industry. Text by Michael Wohlgemuth

Information on live streams for SUISA members

Music via video as a replacement for cancelled concerts: Jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi played his work “We Need To Change” for the series of articles “Music for Tomorrow”; you can listen to it and watch it on the SUISAblog and the social media channels SUISA Music Stories. (Photo: screen shot video Cyril Bondi)

There are numerous possibilities to transmit live streams: The choice ranges from your own website, and social media platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, Instagram or Dailymotion, to pure...read more

The Artist’s Agreement compared with the Publishing Agreement

The economic producer (a label, for example) finances the production of sound recordings containing performances by p artists with the intent to subsequently promote and exploit the recordings commercially. The artist’s agreement regulates the resulting rights between the performer and the producer. The artist’s agreement is often confused with the publishing agreement. An overview of the differences between the two contracts. Text by Céline Troillet

The Artist’s Agreement compared with the Publishing Agreement

The artist’s agreement regulates the performer’s rights to their performance; the publishing agreement on the other hand regulates the exclusive rights of the composer and the lyricist in their work. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

An artist’s agreement between a performer and an economic producer (a label, for example) can be defined as the transfer by the performer of their performance rights to the producer for the purpose of producing and marketing a sound recording.

Transfer of the artist’s rights

The neighbouring rights transferred by the performer (performance rights) to the producer are the performer’s exclusive rights in their performance. These include the exclusive right:

  • to fix their performance on blank media and to reproduce such fixations (mechanical rights);
  • to offer, transfer or otherwise distribute copies of their performance; (right to market or distribution right);
  • to make their performance perceptible in some place other than that in which it was performed, either directly or through any kind of medium, in such a way that persons may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them (the right of recitation, presentation and performance, and the right to make available);
  • to broadcast their performance by radio, television or similar method, including by wire, as well as to retransmit the broadcast performance by means of technical equipment, the provider of which is not the original broadcasting organization, and to make their performance perceptible when they are broadcast, retransmitted or made available to the public (broadcasting right).

Obligations of the producer

The producer’s function is to produce, at their own expense, a recording containing the artist’s performance, and to promote and exploit the recording. The producer is responsible for promoting the recording in accordance with industry practice.

Royalties

In consideration of the transfer of the performer’s rights, the producer is required to pay a fee for each recording sold. The fee is calculated on the wholesale price of every sound recording sold, at varying rates depending on the type of sale. For recordings sold in retail outlets (physical distribution), the rate is generally 8%, but it may go up to 12%. For online sales (internet and other), rates are usually between 15% and 30%. For other uses (e.g. for advertising or use in a film), the fee due to the performer is generally 50% of the amount received by the producer of the sound recording.

Comparison with the publishing agreement

A publishing agreement between an author and a publisher can be defined as the transfer by the author (composer, lyricist, arranger) to the publisher of the rights in the author’s work with a view to its publishing.

Transfer of the author’s rights

The author’s rights transferred to the publisher are the author’s exclusive rights in their work (i.e. in the composition and lyrics). These rights include:

  • the right to produce copies of the work, particularly in printed form, or as sound recordings, audiovisual recordings or on other media carriers (mechanical rights);
  • the right to offer to the public, to sell or otherwise distribute copies of the work (right to market or distribution right);
  • the right to recite, present or perform the work, or enable it to be viewed or heard in a place other than that where the work was presented, and to make it available (the right of recitation, presentation and performance, and the right to make available);
  • the right to broadcast the work via radio or television (broadcasting right).

Other rights may also be transferred by the author, i.e. remuneration claims managed by collecting societies (uses for teaching purposes, for example), graphic rights (the right to publish sheet music and/or lyrics and to distribute such copies of the work), arrangement rights (remixes, arrangement of a work), synchronisation rights (the right to combine the work with works of other genres, in particular with films or video games), or the advertising right (the right to use the work for advertising purposes).

For your information
Publishing agreement: “Publishing agreements: What do I need to consider?” (SUISAblog)
For more about music and films: SUISAinfo 2.09 (PDF, in German)
For more about arrangements: “Arranging works protected by copyright”, “Setting to music” as well as “Sampling and Remixes” (SUISAblog)

Obligations of the publisher

The function of the publisher is to publish, reproduce, and distribute the author’s work, to mediatise it, combine it with other works (in an arrangement, film or commercial), present it to the public (interviews, galas, show-casings), and to conclude contracts with sub-publishers for the publication of the work in other countries.

Royalties

The remuneration for the exclusive rights and for the compensation claims managed by collecting societies are split between the author and the publisher following the distribution key of the competent collecting society, or by mutual agreement. According to SUISA’s Distribution Rules, the publisher’s share of performance and broadcasting rights may not exceed 33.33%. There is no cap on the publisher’s share of the mechanical rights. The remuneration from the management of the other rights is shared between the parties as provided in the publishing contract. As a rule, the remuneration is split on an equal 50: 50 basis. For sheet music, the author is entitled to between 10% and 15% of the retail price.

In a nutshell

The artist’s agreement is different to the publisher’s agreement. The artist’s agreement applies to a performer while the publishing agreement concerns the author (composer, lyricist, arranger). In the artist’s agreement, the performer transfers their neighbouring rights (performance rights) in their performance whereas in the publishing agreement, the author transfers the copyrights in their work. Lastly, the producer and the publisher do not have the same function in respect of their respective co-contractor, and the remuneration deriving from the artist’s agreement and the publishing agreement is specific to each. For example, if a film producer wishes to use a piece of music in their new film, they must obtain the recording rights from the label (which obtained them from the performer under the artist’s agreements) and the copyrights in the work (composition and lyrics) from the publisher (who obtained them from the author under the publishing agreement).

For your information
Specimens of publishing and sub-publishing agreements are available on SUISA’s website. The main points of these agreements are presented in a commented version. www.suisa.ch/en/members/publishers/publishing-agreement.html
SUISA manages authors’ rights for authors and publishers. Swissperform manages the neighbouring rights of performers and producers in their recordings.
“Why SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORM” (SUISAblog)
Related articles
Publishing agreements: What do I need to consider?Publishing agreements: What do I need to consider? Publishing agreements in Switzerland are governed by the Swiss Code of Obligations (OR) The respective statutory provisions on it are, however, not very detailed. In the case of music publishing agreements in particular, you cannot simply rely on the law. Besides, the contractual parties may also stipulate their own arrangements in the agreement. So what do you have to be aware of with respect to publishing agreements? Read more
SUISA membership in numbersSUISA membership in numbers More than 38,000 authors and publishers have instructed SUISA with the management of their rights. Where are they from, how old are they and are there more men or women who are composers? The figures and graphics below provide an insight into SUISA’s membership structure. Read more
SUISA remuneration is subject to AHV (pension) contributionsSUISA remuneration is subject to AHV (pension) contributions Copyright royalties paid out by SUISA are deemed as earned income from independent activities and therefore have to be taken into consideration for the Swiss Compensation Office (pension funds). That way, later claims and pension reductions at a later stage in life can be avoided. Read more
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The economic producer (a label, for example) finances the production of sound recordings containing performances by p artists with the intent to subsequently promote and exploit the recordings commercially. The artist’s agreement regulates the resulting rights between the performer and the producer. The artist’s agreement is often confused with the publishing agreement. An overview of the differences between the two contracts. Text by Céline Troillet

The Artist’s Agreement compared with the Publishing Agreement

The artist’s agreement regulates the performer’s rights to their performance; the publishing agreement on the other hand regulates the exclusive rights of the composer and the lyricist in their work. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

An artist’s agreement between a performer and an economic producer (a label, for example) can be defined as the transfer by the performer of their performance rights to the producer for the purpose of producing...read more

Setting to music

Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from their original work. Texts which are not protected by copyright can be freely used as a basis for a musical work and can also be arranged at will. However, the use or arrangement of texts protected by copyright – i.e. whose authors are still alive or have been dead for less than 70 years – is subject to the rightholders’ consent. The end of the term of protection runs from 31 December of the year the last author alive dies.

Setting poems or parts of texts to music

To set a poem to music, you must first contact the author, their heirs or their publisher and obtain their direct consent to do so. As a rule, the arrangement rights in the case of literary works are held by the publisher; if not, the publisher can at least act as an intermediary. ProLitteris, the Swiss Copyright Society for Literature and the Visual Arts, cannot license these rights.

In the case of elements from a third-party text, the situation is a little trickier. In principle, copyright law does not only protect complete works, it also protects individual parts of a work, provided the term of protection has not expired and the individual parts satisfy the qualifying criteria of a work or impact the individuality of the complete work. Elements of a text (known as “external value”) as well as the plot or characters of a novel (known as “inner value”) can therefore be protected and may not be used at will if in themselves they constitute a work with an individual character or if they impact the individuality of the work as a whole. Copyright law does not only protect entire passages from “The Lord of the Rings”, for example, it also protects Gandalf, the pipe-smoking wizard.

Unfortunately, there is no clear boundary delimiting what parts of a work have individual character or impact an entire work, and what parts do not. The following questions may help you decide: is the excerpt or the inner value in itself so unique that it hardly occurs elsewhere? The length of the excerpt and characteristic elements like names or special word creations can be decisive here. Further: does the excerpt occupy a formative place in the new work?

New settings to music or recording new lyrics

The same applies if you take the lyrics of an existing song and set them to a new melody. This is a new setting to music. In this case, however, you cannot obtain the rights just from the lyricist; you must obtain the rights to the whole musical work from all the original rightholders (i.e. the lyricists and the composers) or from the music publisher. In other words, in the case of jointly created works, consent must be obtained from all the rightholders and not just from the lyricist since you are changing a work that was created to be exploited jointly. Settings to music, on the other hand, are not as a rule regarded as jointly created works. Therefore, each rightholder is free to dispose of their own contribution.

When new lyrics are added to the melody of a song, the legal situation is the same – it is still an arrangement of a musical work. This also applies to the translation of lyrics into another language; even if the contents are identical, a translation is an arrangement requiring consent because it impacts the individuality of the original work.

NB: If you use a translation of a work whose term of protection has expired, you must establish whether the translation is still protected (translations are derived works and as such are also protected by copyright).

Obtaining permission for setting to music or for an arrangement can be an extremely tedious procedure which is not always crowned with success. In any event, you must be sure to allow enough time to clarify the legal status.

Warning: no silent consent!
If a number of requests have been submitted to the rightholder or the (music) publisher and no response has been received, it is wrong to presume that “silence means consent” and that the work can be arranged simply because “efforts were made” to obtain permission. As a rule, arranging a work without the rightholder’s consent constitutes a copyright infringement and may result in civil and criminal prosecution.

Once you have obtained permission to set to music or undertake an arrangement, you still cannot dispose of the work at will. The permission to set to music, for example, often contains a proviso that the original text must be used faithfully, i.e. that no changes can be made to the original. The permission to arrange may be restricted to a single type of arrangement (e.g. only the translation of the lyrics into another language, or only the use of specific excerpts). Moreover, even after granting permission, authors are entitled by law to defend their work against “distortion”. Such cases (which are hard to judge) constitute an infringement of the author’s “moral rights”.

A special case: the “sub-lyricist”
In sub-publishing agreements, the original publisher sometimes grants the sub-publisher the right to have new language versions of an existing song made. The sub-publisher is thus empowered to commission or authorise translations of the lyrics or new lyrics in another language. In such cases, the lyricist is registered as “sub-lyricist”. SUISA’s Distribution Rules provide that the sub-lyricists’ share may not be higher than provided in the regulatory distribution key.

Freedom to quote

Is it possible in certain circumstances to “quote” texts without any permission to set to music when creating a musical work? In Switzerland, literary works may be quoted without permission if the quotation serves as an explanation, reference or illustration and provided the source, i.e. the original author, is indicated (see Article 25 FCA). However, case law stipulates that the quotation may not be “purely an end to itself”, in other words the quotation must serve explanatory or information purposes and cannot principally serve to obtain an advantage from the recognition value of the quotation. Whether these conditions can be met in the case of setting to music and publishing is a matter of interpretation, as is often the case, and can only be answered affirmatively with great restraint. In doubt, it is always better to ask the rightholder.

Key points of a permission to set to music

If an author or a publisher grants permission to set a text to music, this permission or consent to set to music should be set forth in a short agreement. The agreement should cover the following points:

  • Name and address of the contracting parties (and aliases, if applicable)
  • Permission to set to music: the work to be set to music must be named. The agreement must also specify to what extent the text may be edited or arranged. It must define the scope of usage, indicate if printing rights are included and, in case the setting to music is published, whether the author of the text must be designated, and how. The agreement must also indicate whether and how the new work is to be registered with SUISA. Setting-to-music agreements are generally non-exclusive. The composers do not derive any rights to the text from such agreements. These rights remain entirely with the author of the text.
  • Share of the author of the text: SUISA’s Distribution Rules grant equal shares to the composer of the music and the lyricist or author of the text. In the case of unpublished works, the share is 50% each; for published works, the share is 33.33%. As a rule, however, the shares may be set at the parties’ discretion. Book publishers do not often participate in the exploitation rights of the sound recording unless they are members of a copyright collecting society for music and the permission for setting to music provides for such participation.
    The original rightholders often demand a flat-rate fee for the setting to music, and in certain cases the publisher also demands a percentage share on the sale of sheet music if the graphic rights are transferred.
  • Publishing of the setting to music: the text share of the setting to music is not automatically transferred to the music publisher. The publisher must conclude a separate publishing agreement with the author of the text in respect of this share. The publishing rights of major authors are often already held by a book publisher and cannot be transferred to the music publisher.
  • Warranties: the rightholders must warrant that they dispose of the rights to grant the arrangement rights.
  • Place, date and signature of the rightholders
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

How to register a setting to music with SUISA

To register the setting to music of a protected text, you must provide the permission to set to music. If no specific percentage shares were agreed, SUISA’s Distribution Rules will apply. If the author of the text is not member of a music collecting society and does not wish to join one, SUISA will accept transfers to the composers. In this case, the composer and the author of the text will both appear in the database as authors, but both shares will be paid to the composer. The corresponding consent from the author of the text is mandatory.

Summary

As a rule, to set a poem to music you always need permission from the rightholder(s) – depending on the circumstances, this permission can be obtained from the authors, their heirs or the relevant publisher. The permission for setting to music is a prerequisite for registering a protected text with SUISA and is the legal basis for participation in the revenues from the work.

As a rule, for a setting to music, you need to contact the book publisher. For texts which have not been published, ProLitteris can help you identify the relevant rightholders. SUISA can only help if the author is one of its members. In such cases, SUISA will pass on requests for setting to music to the authors or their heirs. Requests should be sent to: authors (at) suisa (dot) ch

Related articles
Arrangement of works in the public domainArrangement of works in the public domain Before you start arranging musical works that are not protected by copyright, it is worth being aware of the legal pitfalls in order to avoid costly stumbles. Seeking inspiration from others, arranging existing works for different instrumentation, incorporating all or part of existing compositions into new works … these are age-old practices. Read more
Arranging works protected by copyrightArranging works protected by copyright Musical works in the public domain can be arranged at will. But works which are still protected by copyright, i.e. whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, cannot be arranged without permission from the rightholders. How does one go about obtaining such permission, and what points must be regulated in the permission in order to be able to register an arrangement with SUISA? Read more
Sampling and RemixesSampling and Remixes The articles about arrangements in the “Good to know” series have so far focused on “conventional” arrangements of musical works. Sampling and remixes are two additional and specific forms of arrangement. What rights need to be secured when existing recordings are used to produce a new work? What agreements have to be contracted? Read more
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  1. E.Rick Sommer says:

    Guten Tag Frau Leuenberger
    ich habe vor einiger Zeit eine CD aufgenommen mit dem Name (Drei rote Rosen Nr. 577) worauf sich die Songs Immer nur du und Mondscheinnacht befinden. Jetzt habe ich festgestellt dass andere Musiker diese Stücke auf einer CD veröffentlicht haben. Wäre da nicht eine Gutschrift fällig.
    Danke für eine Antwort.
    mfg E. Rick Sommer

    • Manu Leuenberger says:

      Sehr geehrter Herr Sommer
      Vielen Dank für Ihren Kommentar. Zur Beantwortung Ihrer konkreten Anfrage besteht weiterer Abklärungsbedarf. Bei spezifischen Einzelfällen wie diesem empfehlen wir deshalb, direkt den Rechtsdienst der SUISA zu kontaktieren: legalservices (at) suisa (dot) ch
      Freundliche Grüsse
      Manu Leuenberger / SUISA Kommunikation

Leave a Reply

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Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from...read more

Changes in distribution for Common Tariff K and Z revenues

The CHF 20 limit for the distribution of revenues under Common Tariffs K (concerts) and Z (circuses) has been eliminated. As a result, amounts previously allocated to distribution category 4C will be otherwise regulated. The changes concern points 4.1, 4.2, 5.4 and 5.5 of SUISA’s Distribution Rules. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Changes in distribution for Common Tariff K and Z revenues

SUISA has optimised its distribution rules for revenues from live performances. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Revenues from CT K and CT Z had hitherto been allocated to two different distribution categories. Amounts over CHF 20 per work were allocated to DC 4B “Concerts and other performances with revenues of more than CHF 20 per work”. Distribution in this category was made on a per file basis. On the other hand, performance revenues of less than CHF 20 per work were allocated to DC 4C “Concerts with revenues of up to CHF 20 per work” and were then distributed on a flat-rate basis.

As is in the nature of flat-rate solutions which at best only approximate real circumstances, this practice did not always produce satisfactory results. In the case of DC 4C, a flat point value, calculated based on the revenues and programme information of all the events assigned to this distribution category, was applied.

Distribution based on actual usage is more advantageous

The flat point value actually applied could be higher or lower than the actual point value of an individual event. Therefore, it could happen that entitled parties would receive a higher amount than that actually paid by the organiser in respect of an event for which only the minimum fee under Tariff K had been paid. Naturally, the opposite was equally possible. The changes made in the Distribution Rules now eliminate the potential disadvantage or advantage for the beneficiaries of DC 4C.

In practice, these changes remove the CHF 20 limit and eliminate distribution category 4C altogether. Henceforth, all revenues from CT K and CT Z – regardless of amount or point value per work – will be allocated to and distributed in DC 4B. The rules for DC 4B itself remain unchanged; only the name of this category has been changed. It is now called: “Concerts & concert-like performances.”

The revenues previously allocated to DC 4C will henceforth flow into DC 4B as well. These consist in the allocations from revenues without programme information from Tariffs Hb, L, Ma, 3a, 7, 8, K and Z, as well as Tariff B revenues from orchestra consortia (with programme information).

Overview of changes in Distribution Rules

Here, in a nutshell, are the advantages of the changes in the Distribution Rules:

  • Even smaller amounts will be equitably distributed per file when programme information is available. This corresponds to a per-work distribution where the proceeds from an event will be distributed directly to the entitled parties.
  • Hitherto, only the entitled parties under DC 4C had the benefit of the above-listed allocations. Since both distribution categories (4B and 4C) relate to concert repertoires, there is no objective reason not to take into account DC 4B works in the distribution of allocations. Thanks to these changes, this will now be the case.
  • By introducing per-file distribution for all performances subject to Tariffs K and Z, settlement statements will be more transparent. Members will now be able to clearly see the make-up of their revenues from live performances under this Tariff.

The changes in the Distribution Rules will first be implemented in the September 2019 distribution.

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“Hands-on” – the new Common Tariff K“Hands-on” – the new Common Tariff K The new Joint Tariff K applies to events which have taken place since 01 January 2017. An overview of the changes to the concert tariff in force and some answers to frequently asked questions which have arisen based on the experience gathered with the new provisions in the first few months. Read more
Since December 2017, statements are made available via “my account”Since December 2017, statements are made available via “my account” Thanks to the password-protected members’ area “my account”, our members can keep an overview of their distribution statements and distribution settlements. Many members asked us to stop the dispatch by post. We have taken this request into account and introduced the option to renounce on the postal dispatch. Read more
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Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

The CHF 20 limit for the distribution of revenues under Common Tariffs K (concerts) and Z (circuses) has been eliminated. As a result, amounts previously allocated to distribution category 4C will be otherwise regulated. The changes concern points 4.1, 4.2, 5.4 and 5.5 of SUISA’s Distribution Rules. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Changes in distribution for Common Tariff K and Z revenues

SUISA has optimised its distribution rules for revenues from live performances. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Revenues from CT K and CT Z had hitherto been allocated to two different distribution categories. Amounts over CHF 20 per work were allocated to DC 4B “Concerts and other performances with revenues of more than CHF 20 per work”. Distribution in this category was made on a per file basis. On the other hand, performance revenues of less than CHF 20 per work were allocated to...read more

Sampling and Remixes

The articles about arrangements in the “Good to know” series have so far focused on “conventional” arrangements of musical works. Sampling and remixes are two additional and specific forms of arrangement. What rights need to be secured when existing recordings are used to produce a new work? What agreements have to be contracted? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Sampling and Remixes

From the copyright point of view, remixes and sampling are specific forms of arrangement. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Sound samplings come in many different forms and techniques. But they all have one thing in common: they incorporate parts of a musical recording into a new work. This regularly raises the question whether such parts of works or samples are protected by copyright or – especially in the case of very short sound sequences – whether they may be used freely.

In the case of a remix, an existing production is taken and re-arranged and re-mixed. This may involve taking apart a whole work and putting it together again with the addition of new elements. Theoretically, the degree of re-arrangement in a remix may range from a simple cover version to a completely new arrangement. As a rule, a remix is simply an arrangement. Remixes generally keep a work’s existing title and add a tag which refers either to the form of use (radio edit / extended club version, or similar) or the name of the remixer (generally a well-known DJ).

By contrast with conventional arrangements, in addition to using an existing work to create a derived work or arrangement, samples and remixes also use an existing sound recording. Therefore, one must distinguish between two categories of rights: the rights of the authors of the original work on the one hand (copyrights), and the rights of the performing artists and producers of the recording on the other (neighbouring rights).

Securing the copyrights

In principle, copyright law protects entire works of music, as well as parts of works which meet the qualifying criteria, provided the term of protection of 70 years (after the death of the last deceased author) has not yet expired. The melody, a solo or other elements of a work can therefore be protected and may not be freely used if they qualify as a work of an individual character. This must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The more marked the characteristics of the sampled element, the less likely you will be able to use that element for free. The notion that two bars, nine notes or two seconds of music can be used for free is only a rumour since, regrettably, there is no clear delimitation defining when a part of a work has an individual character.

So if a protected part of a third-party composition is sampled and incorporated into a new work, and the part concerned has an individual character, the arrangement rights in the original work must be secured from the publisher or, in the case of unpublished works, the author. This is done through a sampling agreement or an arrangement licence.

In the case of a remix, a distinction is made depending on who creates the remix: the author of the original work or a third party. For copyright purposes, the original author is essentially free to create remixes of his own work. If, however, the original work was composed by several people, he will need permission from his co-authors to create a remix; and if the original work was published by a label, he will need the permission of the label to use the sound recording (neighbouring rights).

If the remix was created by a third party, a distinction must be made depending on whether the remix was commissioned or made on the remixer’s own initiative. In the latter case, the rights must be secured from the author or his publisher by means of an arrangement license (often referred to as a “remix agreement”).

Securing neighbouring rights

Since sampling and remixes borrow from pre-existing sound recordings, the rights in the recording and the artists’ performances must also be secured. As a rule, the rights of the performing artists are assigned to the record producer or the label when the production is made. These rights are also limited by a term of protection. Currently, the term of protection for recordings in Switzerland is 50 years after the first publication, provided that the recording is actually published for the first time within 50 years of the recording date. Otherwise, the recording date is decisive for the expiry of the term of protection. In the EU, however, the term of protection is 70 years. In the framework of the revision of the Copyright Act currently before the Swiss Parliament, it has been proposed to increase the term of protection under Swiss law in line with that of the European Union.

If the term of protection is still valid, the rights in the recording have to be secured. The rumour that “two seconds are fair use” is fundamentally false. However, there is controversy as to whether recording protection applies to the shortest sound sequences. The European Court of Justice is currently examining this very matter in “Kraftwerk vs. Pelham: Metall auf Metall”.

The rights in a recording are normally held by the record producer, i.e. by the party who bears the economic risk of the recording. The producer can be an artist himself (own productions), a record company (“label”) or a broadcasting company, and the corresponding rights must be secured accordingly. Colloquially, the rights in the recordings are often referred to as “master rights”.

NB. A work’s term of protection may have expired while the recording is still protected. In this case, the rights in the work no longer need to be secured, but the rights in the recording still do. This would also apply to recordings of natural sounds and animal cries, for example, which are not protected by copyright. In this case, the recording, as the economic output of the producer, is protected just the same.

Main points of a sampling agreement

Depending on the circumstances, the sampling agreement (also referred to as a “sample clearance agreement”) regulates the rights in a work and its recording. When these rights are all held by the same party, a single agreement can be made. As a rule, however, two agreements will be concluded: one with the author or his publisher, and the other with the record label. The following points must be covered:

  • Name and address of the contracting parties (pseudonyms if applicable)
  • Subject of agreement: work and/or recording. Duration of the sample. How exactly may the sample be used? Can it be altered?
  • Scope of licence: what rights are granted? Is the licence exclusive or non-exclusive? For which territory and for how long?
  • Rights splitting/licence shares: in most cases, rights are determined by the shares of the participants in the work. The authors of a new work and the rightholders of the original work are all entitled to a share in the new work. The sampling agreement must in any event indicate the splitting. In addition to this rule which depends on the economic success of the new production, the original rightholders may demand a lump-sum fee for the arrangement right. Moreover, the royalty for the use of the recording usually takes the form of a percentage per sold copy of the new production, or of a lump-sum fee.
  • Distribution timetable: when and how often are rights settled?
  • Warranties: the rightholder must warranty that he holds all the relevant rights in the sample.
  • Place, date, signature of rightholder
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

Main points of a remix agreement

A remix agreement must specify whether the remix is commissioned or the remixer is acting on his own initiative and applying for a remix licence. Depending on the premises, the agreements can be quite different. Moreover, in the case of a remix and depending on the circumstances, the rights in the work and the recording also have to be regulated. When these rights are all held by the same party, a single agreement can be concluded. As a rule, however, two agreements have to be made: one with the author or publisher, and the other with the performing artist or record label. The following points must be covered:

  • Name and address of the contracting parties (pseudonyms if applicable)
  • Subject of agreement: work and/or recording. Duration. Title of the remix. Credits.
  • Production terms: delivery date, special requirements (if commissioned)
  • Scope of licence: what rights are granted? Is the licence exclusive or non-exclusive? For which territory and how long?
  • Fees: as a rule, a lump-sum fee is agreed, more rarely a participation in sales and other licence fees such as sync fees.
  • Rights splitting: as the arranger of the newly created work, the remixer is usually (but not necessarily) given a share. Accordingly, the arrangement percentage indicated in SUISA’s Distribution Rules is applicable (see article “Arranging works protected by copyright”). In rare cases, if, for example, the remixer’s contribution to the new work is very significant, he will be granted co-authorship status in the remix. In these cases his participation may also be higher.
  • Distribution timetable: when and how often are rights settled?
  • Place, date, signature of rightholder
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

When does a remix or a work containing samples have to be registered with SUISA?

When filing an application to register a work with samples excerpted from a protected work, the sampling agreement (which does not have to be expressly designated as such) must be enclosed or – in the case of online registration – uploaded. The rights splitting must be clearly indicated in the sampling agreement. Otherwise, the new work cannot be registered.

NB. In contrast to conventional arrangements where the arranger is registered as such for the new work, it is general practice for works with samples to list all the authors as co-authors of the work. The authors and, if applicable, publishers of the work from which the samples are taken thus become co-rightholders of the new work. When applying to register a work, it is important to list all rightholders of the work from which the samples are excerpted or at least to clearly state which original work was sampled.

When filing an application to register a remix of a protected work, the remix agreement (which does not have to be expressly designated as such) must be enclosed or – in the case of online registration – uploaded. The remixer will only be granted a share of the earnings if the remix agreement clearly indicates that he is entitled to a share. If no percentage is specified, the remixer will be entitled to the share allotted to the arranger under the Distribution Rules. If no reference is made to any share, SUISA will record the name of the remixer in the original version with the comment that the remix is approved but the remixer is not entitled to any share. If a publishing house registers a remix of a work which it published in the original, SUISA waives the need for a remix agreement since the publisher can always secure the arrangement rights directly from its author.

Summary

In addition to the arrangement rights (copyright), remixes and sampling always also affect neighbouring rights, since they use existing recordings (containing the rights of performing artists). The rights in the recording may be held by the same rightholder as the arrangement rights (author or publisher), or by a third party (often a record company or label), and must be secured even for very short sequences. The more rightholders involved, the earlier one should start enquiring and securing the rights. Likewise, remix and sampling permissions should always be recorded as written agreements (which also facilitates registration of the works with SUISA) and should clearly indicate how rights are split.

SUISA assists its members in locating the rightholders. In the case of published works, it provides the publisher’s particulars so that he can be contacted directly. In the case of unpublished works, it forwards enquiries to the authors or their heirs. Enquiries should be addressed to: publisher (at) suisa (dot) ch Details of the producers of a recording can be found under the ℗ note on the recording itself.

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Arranging works protected by copyrightArranging works protected by copyright Musical works in the public domain can be arranged at will. But works which are still protected by copyright, i.e. whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, cannot be arranged without permission from the rightholders. How does one go about obtaining such permission, and what points must be regulated in the permission in order to be able to register an arrangement with SUISA? Read more
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The articles about arrangements in the “Good to know” series have so far focused on “conventional” arrangements of musical works. Sampling and remixes are two additional and specific forms of arrangement. What rights need to be secured when existing recordings are used to produce a new work? What agreements have to be contracted? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Sampling and Remixes

From the copyright point of view, remixes and sampling are specific forms of arrangement. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Sound samplings come in many different forms and techniques. But they all have one thing in common: they incorporate parts of a musical recording into a new work. This regularly raises the question whether such parts of works or samples are protected by copyright or – especially in the case of very short sound sequences –...read more

Arranging works protected by copyright

Musical works in the public domain can be arranged at will. But works which are still protected by copyright, i.e. whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, cannot be arranged without permission from the rightholders. How does one go about obtaining such permission, and what points must be regulated in the permission in order to be able to register an arrangement with SUISA? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Arranging works protected by copyright

To arrange a work protected by copyright whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, permission must be obtained from the rightholders. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

The author has the right to decide whether his work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from his or her original work. This right remains with the author and is not transferred to SUISA under the rights’ administration agreement. A person wishing to arrange a work must contact the author and obtain his or her permission to do so.

Authors generally transfer the arrangement rights to their publishers in the framework of a publishing agreement. On that basis, publishers may authorise third parties to arrange a work, or commission third parties to create a new version of the work. Publishing contracts should regulate whether the publisher may, under certain circumstances, authorise or commission an arrangement directly or whether the publisher must refer back to the author in each case. In the case of published works, therefore, the person to contact for permission is the publisher.

When dealing with successful international repertoires, obtaining permission may be a tiresome procedure, and may not always be crowned with success. Certain rightholders are happy to have their works arranged and more widely disseminated. Other rightholders attach great value to the “integrity” of their works and refuse virtually all arrangements. Either way, before an arrangement can be undertaken, sufficient time should be reserved for ascertaining the legal rights.

NB. If a number of requests have been submitted to the author or the publisher and no response has been received, it is wrong to presume that “silence means consent” and that the work can be arranged simply because “efforts were made” to obtain permission. As a rule, arranging a work without the rightholder’s consent constitutes a copyright infringement and may result in civil and criminal prosecution.

Even once the necessary permission has been obtained, the arranger is not always free to arrange the work at will. The permission may be restricted to a certain type of arrangement (e.g. translation of the lyrics into another language, shortening the work, remis, new instrumentalisation, etc.) Moreover, by law, even if they have permitted an arrangement, authors are entitled to defend their works against “distortion”. In such cases (often difficult to judge), it is the “moral rights” of the author which are at stake.

Key points of an authorisation to arrange

If an author or a publisher grants permission to arrange a work, this permission, consent, or authorisation should be recorded in a short written agreement. The agreement should cover the following points:

a) Name and address of the contractual parties (pseudonyms, if any)

b) Scope of permission: the work to be arranged must be clearly designated, as well as the extent to which the work may be musically or textually arranged. Moreover, the agreement should indicate whether and how the new work can be registered as an arrangement with SUISA.

Good to know: Registering a work as an arrangement only makes sense if the original is already registered with SUISA, and both works (original and arrangement) are to be used side by side (and independently). In the framework of the songwriting process, it is not unusual for “arranged parts” to be attributed to co-musicians although there is no original work which can be used separately. To avoid misunderstandings, it is advisable in such cases to let the co-musicians participate as co-authors rather than as arrangers.

c) Shares: Under SUISA’s Distribution Rules, for unpublished works without lyrics, the arranger is entitled to a 20% share; for published works without lyrics, the arranger’s share is 16.67%. For works with lyrics, the arranger’s share is 15% (unpublished) and 11.67% (published) respectively. In principle, the arranger’s share can be set freely. In practice, the arranger’s share lies between 0% and 25%. SUISA’s Distribution Rules provide for an exception in the case of arrangement permissions granted by publishers: here, the arranger’s share may not exceed the share in the regulatory distribution key. This is designed to avoid the share of the original author from being reduced too far. A rightholder may also permit an arrangement without granting any share of the distribution to the arranger.

d) Publishing an arrangement: In the case of arrangements of published works, it is advisable to specify in the authorisation whether the arrangement must also be published by the publisher of the original work (so that the publisher can retain control over the publishing rights). As a rule, the original publisher will insist on this. In that case, an additional publishing agreement should be signed between the original publisher and the arranger.

e) Rights warranties: Rightholders must warrant that they dispose of the necessary rights to grant the arrangement permission.

f) Place, date, rightholder’s signature

g) Governing law, jurisdiction

Special case: “sub-arrangements”

Sub-publishing agreements generally provide for the transfer of the arrangement rights from the original publisher to the sub-publisher. The sub-publisher is thus entitled to authorise or commission arrangements. In these cases, the arranger is registered as a “sub-arranger” or, with regard to new lyrics, e.g. in another language, as a “sub-lyricist”. Here too, SUISA’s Distribution Rules provide that the sub-arranger’s share may not exceed the share set in the regulatory distribution key.

How to register an arrangement with SUISA

For an arrangement of a protected work, the permission to make the arrangement must be filed – or uploaded in the case of an online registration – together with the registration form. The arranger will only receive a share of the royalties from a work if the permission to arrange explicitly states that the arranger is entitled to a share. If no percentage share is indicated, the arranger will be allocated the regulatory share. If there is no mention of the arranger’s participation, SUISA will record the arranger’s name under the original version, with a note indicating that an authorised arrangement exists but the arranger is not entitled to a participation. Accordingly, the arranger will not receive a share.

When publishers register new versions of works which they have published in the original, SUISA waives the need for an authorisation since the publisher has to settle the arrangement rights directly with its authors. The same applies for sub-publishing agreements.

Summary

To arrange protected works, therefore, you always need the rightholders’ permision – depending on the circumstances, such permission should be obtained from the author, the author’s heirs or from the publisher. Permission is the prerequisite for registering an arrangement of a protected work with SUISA.

SUISA offers its support in tracing the responsible rightholders. In the case of published works, SUISA will give you the publisher’s name and address so that you may contact the latter directly. In the case of unpubished works, SUISA forwards arrangement requests directly to the author or his/her heirs. Inquiries should be addressed to: publisher (at) suisa (dot) ch
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Musical works in the public domain can be arranged at will. But works which are still protected by copyright, i.e. whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, cannot be arranged without permission from the rightholders. How does one go about obtaining such permission, and what points must be regulated in the permission in order to be able to register an arrangement with SUISA? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Arranging works protected by copyright

To arrange a work protected by copyright whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, permission must be obtained from the rightholders. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

The author has the right to decide whether his work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from his or her original work. This...read more

Changes in the distribution of revenues from radio uses

The classifications for radio broadcasting stations have been changed. Starting with the 2019 settlements, a uniform factor of 0.25 will be applied for level D uses (sound logos, jingles, background music, etc.), and a factor of 1.5 for level E (other music). In addition, calculations will be made on a per-second instead of a per-minute basis. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Changes in the distribution of revenues from radio uses

The rules for the distribution of revenues from radio uses have been changed. (Photo: T.Dallas / Shutterstock.com)

In 2015, the factors for the distribution of revenues from television broadcasts were changed. The classifications for radio broadcasts have now been changed as well. The rules are set out in points 3.2 and 3.3 of SUISA’s Distribution Rules.

The new rules are based on an essential principle: radio classifications must be appropriate, and at the same time they must be proportionate with existing rules for TV broadcasts.

In practice, this has been achieved as follows: firstly, billing is now on a per-second basis for radio as well; secondly, in level D, degressive rates have also been abolished for radio and replaced by a uniform factor of 0.25; finally, a factor of 1.5 has been introduced for level E (other music) to bring it into a more appropriate relationship with level D.

The reasoning and main arguments for each point are outlined below:

Billing per second

Billing per second ensures more accurate distribution, and better reflects actual usage. Thanks to the Echolon monitoring system, this is now possible at no additional cost. The playing duration of works can now be determined in a uniform manner for radio and television.

Level D (sound logos, jingles, background music, etc.)

Hitherto, degressive rates were still applicable in level D for radio broadcasters although they had been abolished for television broadcasters. The three existing factors (1, 0.5 and 0.05) are relatively arbitrary and are likely to produce inappropriate results. This is more particularly true for the factor of 0.05 in the case of successful productions with over 52 broadcasts in a single distribution period. In other words: the beneficiaries concerned receive too little compared with the other degressive rates. By introducing a uniform rate of 0.25, an appropriate factor – one that is proportionate with the other levels – has been chosen for the music uses in level D. It is also the same factor as for television.

Level E (other music)

Once a uniform factor of 0.25 is introduced in level D, the existing factor of 1 for other music is no longer proportionate to the other factors, taking into account the television classifications. This was remedied by applying a new factor of 1.5. This factor is appropriate both with regard to TV broadcast classifications (“Concerts”: factor 2, “Music in films”: factor 1 and “Sound logos, jingles, background music, etc.”: factor 0.25) and with regard to the radio broadcast classifications (level D: now 0.25)

For further information:
www.suisa.ch/verteilungsreglement (in German)

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

The classifications for radio broadcasting stations have been changed. Starting with the 2019 settlements, a uniform factor of 0.25 will be applied for level D uses (sound logos, jingles, background music, etc.), and a factor of 1.5 for level E (other music). In addition, calculations will be made on a per-second instead of a per-minute basis. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Changes in the distribution of revenues from radio uses

The rules for the distribution of revenues from radio uses have been changed. (Photo: T.Dallas / Shutterstock.com)

In 2015, the factors for the distribution of revenues from television broadcasts were changed. The classifications for radio broadcasts have now been changed as well. The rules are set out in points 3.2 and 3.3 of SUISA’s Distribution Rules.

The new rules are based on an essential principle: radio classifications must be appropriate, and at the...read more

Arrangement of works in the public domain

Before you start arranging musical works that are not protected by copyright, it is worth being aware of the legal pitfalls in order to avoid costly stumbles. Text by Ernst Meier and Claudia Kempf

Arrangement of works in the public domain

An arrangement is when a new work is created using an existing work. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Seeking inspiration from others, arranging existing works for different instrumentation, incorporating all or part of existing compositions into new works … these are age-old practices.

What pitfalls have to be avoided when you undertake a musical arrangement? – In a new series of articles to be published on the SUISAblog and in SUISAinfo, we shall try to shed some light on this topic. Initially, we shall examine the arrangement of works in the public domain, i.e. works that are no longer protected by copyright since their authors have been dead for more than 70 years.

What is an arrangement?

According to the Copyright Act, an arrangement is a “derived” (in German, literally, a “second-hand”) work. For an arrangement to qualify for copyright protection, it must satisfy the same requirements as a “work”, in other words: arrangements which are deemed artistic creations of the mind of the arranger are protected by copyright in the same way as an autonomous work. In the case of an arrangement, the artistic creation consists in the recognisable transformation, changing, or extension, of the musical substance of an existing work.

An arrangement is when a new work is created using an existing work in such a way that the latter remains recognisable with its individual character. The newly created element must, however, also have an individual character. Typical examples of arrangements are works orchestrated for different instruments, or lyrics translated into another language.

SUISA’s Distribution Rules (in German) have a section (1.1.3.5) that lists a whole series of works that do not qualify as arrangements for copyright protection purposes. In practice, this list has proven itself repeatedly. The following modifications do not qualify as arrangements:

  • adding dynamic or agogic accents;
  • adding musical phrasing symbols;
  • entering finger positions (fingering);
  • registrations for organs or other keyboard instruments;
  • flourishes;
  • translating an old musical notation style into a style in use today;
  • correcting clerical mistakes in the original and similar changes;
  • transferring music into other keys or pitches (transpositions);
  • editing out individual voices;
  • exchanging or doubling voices;
  • adding purely parallel voices;
  • allocating existing voices to other instruments (simple transcription).

Arranging works in the public domain and registering them with SUISA

Musical works which are not protected by copyright can be freely arranged and altered – no consent is necessary. To register an arrangement of a work in the public domain, you must send SUISA a copy of the new work together with the existing work, so that the music department can establish copyrightability. This applies to works whose authors are unknown or have been dead for at least 70 years. This also applies to works that have been handed down by folklore and are considered traditional.

When it receives an arrangement, SUISA’s music department verifies whether it satisfies the criteria for protection by copyright. This is always done by comparing the original to the arranged version. The musical quality of the submitted piece or movement is unimportant at this stage.

What types of arrangements are there, and what is the arranger’s share of the remuneration?

In its appreciation, SUISA distinguishes between the five following types of arrangement:

(Graphics: Crafft Communication)

1. Normal arrangement

The “normal” case (representing about 90% of all applications) is an arrangement in the strict sense of the word. A popular melody is arranged by adding voices or instruments for a specific ensemble or group (e.g. mixed choir, string quartet, orchestra, Big Band, etc.). The melody or main voice is taken over exactly, only the arrangement is new.

In this case, the arranger’s share is 15% (for works with lyrics) or 20% (works without lyrics).

Normal arrangement

2. Co-composition

Here the unprotected melody is not the upper voice; it is hidden in the musical structure. In this particular case (e.g. choir and organ music), the arranger’s work is of higher value since he has to compose his own upper or main voice and the existing music has to be embedded into the piece with a contrapuntal technique.

The arranger’s share in this type of work is 50% of the composer’s share.

Co-composition

3. Reconstruction

An original work is interrupted in one or several places, or left unfinished by the composer (or lost in handing down), and is then finished by the arranger.

The arranger’s share in this case is 50% of the composer’s share.

Co-composition

4. Complex jazz versions with changing soloists

The piece starts with a short presentation of the unprotected original melody. Then, a succession of soloists or “registers” (saxophone, trumpets, piano, drums) take up the melody with improvised figurations; these make up the greater portion of the work. Visually this is illustrated by the fact that the individual soloists or “registers” stand up for their solos. At the end, the original melody is often repeated all together.

In this type of work, the arranger’s share is 50% or 100% of the composer’s share, depending on the length and importance of the solos.

Complex jazz versions with changing soloists

5. Sets of variations

Variations on historic musical themes (e.g. Diabelli, Paganini or Gershwin variations) are typical examples of compositions where the original takes backstage to the variation. The starting theme is merely a pretext for a completely new work. It follows, therefore, that the creator of the variation is entitled to the full remuneration. For example: “Diabelli variations by Beethoven” etc.

The arranger’s share in this type of work can be up to 100% of the composerʼs share.

Sets of variations

What does public domain (“domaine public”) mean?
For further information on the protection period for works we refer you to the article “Erstmals seit 20 Jahren werden wieder Werke gemeinfrei” (article available in German, French and Italian, PDF) in the SUISAinfo edition.
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Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

Before you start arranging musical works that are not protected by copyright, it is worth being aware of the legal pitfalls in order to avoid costly stumbles. Text by Ernst Meier and Claudia Kempf

Arrangement of works in the public domain

An arrangement is when a new work is created using an existing work. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

Seeking inspiration from others, arranging existing works for different instrumentation, incorporating all or part of existing compositions into new works … these are age-old practices.

What pitfalls have to be avoided when you undertake a musical arrangement? – In a new series of articles to be published on the SUISAblog and in SUISAinfo, we shall try to shed some light on this topic. Initially, we shall examine the arrangement of works in the public domain, i.e. works that are no longer protected by copyright...read more