In its judgment of November 11, the Berlin Appellate Court (Kammergericht) held (press release, in German only) that collecting society GEMA, which exercises the rights of composers and lyricists for musical works, is not entitled to subtract and disburse a lump sum of collected royalties to publishers. The decision applies retroactively for royalties collected since January 2010.
The court, following an April ruling by the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH ; see our June 2016 Newsletter for details) in a case against collecting society VG Wort, held that GEMA must disburse the royalties collected by exercising any rights transferred to it only to the owners of the exercised rights. Since publishers (except for magazine/newspaper publishers that were not involved in this case) are not granted any copyright or neighboring rights of their own under German copyright law, they cannot claim to participate in the collected royalties. This would be different only if a specific payment order was made in favor of the publisher, or if claims were (in part) assigned to the publisher (neither of which had happened in the present case).