Copyright reform in Germany: Melody protection is saved

For March 22, 2021, German Federal Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had invited Attorney Dr. Christian Seyfert, LL.M. together with the famous German singers and composers Julia Neigel and Peter Maffay to another meeting on the upcoming copyright reform. This time, the meeting took place directly in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Berlin, specifically in the room in which Günter Schabowski held his famous press conference on freedom of travel from the former GDR to West Germany on November 9, 1989 (Mohrenstraße 37 in Berlin).

In the meeting on March 22, 2021, which lasted just under two hours and was also attended by state secretaries of justice from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Julia Neigel, Peter Maffay, and Attorney Dr. Christian Seyfert, LL.M. emphasized their concern that melody protection must be preserved in Germany. This was because, according to the German government’s previous draft, Section 24 (2) UrhG, which provided for rigid melody protection, had been deleted from the Copyright Act without replacement. Attorney Dr. Seyfert proposed to the Federal Ministry of Justice the following version for a newly drafted § 24 Copyright Act:

Ҥ 24 Copyright Act РMelody Protection.

A new work of music which recognizably takes the melody from an existing work and uses it as its basis may be published and exploited only with the consent of the author.”

Attorney Dr. Seyfert had already previously, on 24.02.2021, recommended to the Cultural Committee of the German Bundestag as one of nine invited experts the revision of the draft law and the continuation of melody protection in Germany. Germany would otherwise be the only country in all of Europe that would no longer adequately protect its melodies.

At our meeting in the Federal Ministry of Justice on March 22, 2021, the Justice State Secretaries already signaled to us that the Federal Government’s draft law would be revised, and that melody protection would be explicitly integrated into the revised version. And, indeed, it has just happened. In an amendment proposed by the CDU/CSU and SPD parliamentary groups on May 17, 2021, melody protection has now been expressly integrated into § 23 (1) Copyright Act. In the future, this provision is to read as follows:

“Section 23 Arrangements and Transformations.

(1) Arrangements or other transformations of a work, in particular also of a melody, may only be published or exploited with the consent of the author. If the newly created work maintains a sufficient distance from the used work, there is no adaptation or transformation within the meaning of sentence 1.” (emphasis in bold by us)

Attorney Dr. Seyfert expressed his satisfaction with this development. Thus, in the future, melody adaptations and melody transformations may be published and exploited only with the prior consent of the author. In particular, it also constitutes a melody arrangement or melody transformation if a melody is integrated into another song or combined with another melody.