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Songwriters or lyricists are called the authors of texts for existing or planned compositions of vocal music . They own intellectual property in their works .


The lyrics are one of the two components of a work of vocal music. It is written by the lyricist in a certain language and has to match the music rhythmically , in terms of phrasing and key . It is usually kept in a continuous meter and often gives the song its rhythmic structure. That is why the songwriter and music composer usually work closely together to merge text and music into a harmonious unit. This can be both the texting of an existing melody and the setting of an existing text in a conscious coordination situation. The combination of a mental content with a melody and the phrasing of the text are the result of a creative coordination process.

The GEMA , the Association of German Musicians and the cases use the term "lyricists" while "author" in the English language, the term is common ( English for "Author"; see the US ASCAP -Verwertungsgesellschaft American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

Legal issues (Germany)

Substantive copyright

Co-authorship vs. Works connection. In terms of copyright law, text and music are each independent, separately usable works . That is why there is no co-authorship between the composer and the songwriter( § 8 UrhG). However, the two works - the work of music and the work of language - are regularlylinkedby contract by their respective authors (sometimes tacitly ) for joint exploitation. The legal consequences of § 9 UrhGapply to such work connections. According to this, each of the authors has, in good faith, a claim against the other for consent (against payment) to use in the work connection. This counteracts the risk that one of the authors could hinder the evaluation of the connection by the other. (Just think of a music group that falls apart at some point. The outgoing lyricist should not be able to largely block the exercise of composer's copyright by prohibiting the further use of the song repertoire from his copyright on the text.) The work connection arises between lyricist and composer an exploitation community in the form of a society under civil law . The author of the other work cannot, in principle, take action against the exploitation of one of the works outside the work connection. The songwriter is therefore basically free to print his text in a newspaper or to work with another composer and bring the text there. However, here too there are certain duties of loyalty; In addition, individual recycling is often contractually restricted in practice. The same applies in Austria, where the combination of music and text does not establish co-authorship, but rather a combination of works, for which, unlike in German law, there is no separate regulation, but which regularly also becomes a society under civil law (§§ 1175 ff. ABGB) between the authors involved.

Editor copyright. If a songwriter orientates himself on a pre-existing text, he can obtain an editor's copyright through his work ( § 3 UrhG). The prerequisite, however, is that his performance is a personal spiritual creation. It is irrelevant whether the pre-existing work is still protected by copyright - editing atext that hasalreadybecome public domain canalso result in an editor's copyright. If, on the other hand, the edited work is still protected by copyright, the result of the editing can only ever be used with the consent of the author of the original work ( § 23 sentence 1 UrhG). Not every creation that is based on a pre-existing work, however, leads to an adaptation. If the songwriter creates a new work using a pre-existing work and there is such a distance between the new and the old work that the individual features taken from the protected older work fade in relation to the uniqueness of the newly created work, free use exists ( § 24 UrhG). In this case, the author of the original work is undemanding.

Presumption of authorship. According to § 10 UrhG, it is assumed in favor of the person who is referred to as the author on a copy in the usual way that he is actually the author. This facilitation of evidence is important for the enforcement of copyright claims. If the songwriter and composer are named side by side on a sheet of music or a data carrier, without it being clear which of the two is responsible for the text and which is responsible for the composition, this facilitation of proof also applies. It is then assumed that those named are co-authors of the text and the melody withequal rights.

Role of GEMA

The GEMA fulfills the requirements of the composer and the librettist. Their distribution plan stipulates that the lyricist will also be involved if the musical work to which the text belongs is used without the text. GEMA also includes the “special lyricist” category in its distribution plan. This is an editor of the original text. He will participate in the distribution if his text editing is registered with GEMA, can be identified in the usage reports and the text editing and his participation have been approved by the authorized persons involved in the protected work.

In the case of the public reproduction of a text-based work, the lyricist receives in most cases 4/12 of the distribution amount determined per work. It remains with this share even if a processor joins; If, in addition to the composer and the lyricist, a publisher or a publisher and an editor must be remunerated, the proportion of the lyricist is reduced to 3/12. The special lyricist receives half of the lyricist's share. For works of serious music in which a small amount of text is performed, the proportion of the lyricist, deviating from the above, is set according to the ratio of the text used to the total scope of the work. Different regulations apply to individual sectors.


Librettists are called lyricists of operas , operettas or musicals . In addition to the musical texts, the spoken texts are also part of the work. Many lyricists are on the writing of songs and hits the light dance and light music specialized.

Songwriters and singer-songwriters combine text poetry, composition and interpretation or performance in one person. Both terms emerged in the 1960s and are differentiated, for example according to the focus of the work, which in the German term "Liedermacher" is more on the text and a message to the audience, to which the music with predominantly acoustic instruments is subordinated. The English term, on the other hand, is more open and is also used when the artists appear with a pop or rock band. It has also found its way into the German-speaking area.

German division

After 1945, lyricists and composers all over Germany initially continued their work together. Michael Jary founded and directed the Radio Berlin Dance Orchestra in 1945 and the Radio Saarbrückens Radio Orchestra in 1946 .

Due to the division of Germany , cooperation and joint productions decreased. At the end of the 1950s, radio in eastern Germany was increasingly looking for “own” authors. State regulations promoted this development. In 1961 the 45 composers and 18 lyricists working for Amiga came mainly from the East.

The history of East German text poetry fell out of sight after reunification. The compilations Deutsche Schlager and 120% Schlager published after 1990 do not contain any East German songwriters. A collection of Schlager text booklets for the period after 1945 contains not only West German but also East German booklets from Harth Musik Verlag Leipzig-Berlin and Lied der Zeit Musikverlag Berlin.

Individual evidence

  1. BGH, judgment of April 16, 2015,  I ZR 225/12 = GRUR 2015, 1189, Rn. 15 - gold rapper ; Loewenheim / Peifer in Schricker / Loewenheim, Copyright , 5th edition 2017, § 9 Rn. 5, with further evidence; also the official justification , BT-Drs. 4/270 , p. 42.
  2. Loewenheim / Peifer in Schricker / Loewenheim, Copyright , 5th edition 2017, § 9 Rn. 5, 7.
  3. BGH, judgment of October 2, 1981, I ZR 81/79 = GRUR 1982, 41, 42 - Musikverleger III ; Dreyer in Heidelberg Commentary on Copyright , 4th edition 2018, § 9 Rn. 18th
  4. Dreyer in Heidelberg Commentary on Copyright , 4th ed. 2018, § 9 Rn. 38; Loewenheim / Peifer in Schricker / Loewenheim, Copyright , 5th edition 2017, § 9 Rn. 16.
  5. Loewenheim / Peifer in Schricker / Loewenheim, Copyright , 5th edition 2017, § 9 Rn. 16.
  6. Ciresa in Ciresa, Austrian copyright law , as of: 19th edition 2017, § 11 Rn. 3; Walter, Austrian Copyright , 2008, Rn. 372. For the lack of co-authorship, see also OGH August 11, 2015, 4 Ob 50 / 15d = MR 2015, 260, 262 - The yellow jacket .
  7. Loewenheim in Schricker / Loewenheim, Copyright , 5th edition 2017, § 3 Rn. 10.
  8. Established case law, cf. only BGH, judgment of July 28, 2016, I ZR 9/15 = BGHZ 211, 309, Rn. 19 - trimmed to bold , with further evidence.
  9. See illustrative BGH, judgment of January 24, 1991, I ZR 78/89 = GRUR 1991, 531 - Brown Girl I (on the title "Brown Girl in the Ring" of the Boney M. group ).
  10. Schulze in Dreier / Schulze, Copyright Act , 6th edition 2018, § 10 Rn. 24; Dreyer in Heidelberg Commentary on Copyright , 4th edition 2018, § 10 Rn. 31; A. Nordemann in Fromm / Nordemann, Copyright , 12th edition. 2018, § 10 Rn. 20a; each with reference to BGH, judgment of July 10, 1986, I ZR 128/84 = GRUR 1986, 887, 888 - BORA BORA (on Art. 15 para. 1 RBÜ). Another view is Karl Riesenhuber, The presumptive facts of § 10 UrhG , in: Commercial legal protection and copyright , Vol. 105, No. 3, 2003, pp. 187–196, here p. 190.
  11. Section 5, Paragraph 2, Clause 1 of the GEMA distribution plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24 May 2017.
  12. Section 5, Paragraph 3, Clause 1 of the GEMA distribution plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24 May 2017.
  13. Section 5, Paragraph 3, Sentences 2–3 of the GEMA Distribution Plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24. May 2017.
  14. § 195 GEMA distribution plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24. May 2017.
  15. § 199 GEMA distribution plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24. May 2017.
  16. § 196 GEMA distribution plan in the version of the resolutions of 23/24. May 2017.
  17. AWA regulation 60:40