How do music copyright laws work

"The horror has no end." With these words begins a letter of protest from over 1,000 musicians against the reform of copyright law. In an interview, the producer duo Quarterhead from Wetzlar explains why 15 seconds is anything but a trivial matter.

The songwriter and producer duo Quarterhead from Wetzlar is successful across Europe with songs like "Head Shoulders Knees & Toes" or "Touch My Body". In an open letter, Janik Riegert and Josh Tapen, together with more than 1,000 colleagues from the music industry, are protesting against a new copyright law by the federal government.

With the regulation, Germany wants to implement an EU directive that is intended to restrict the unauthorized use of music, images, text and film excerpts on the Internet. But the draft law, which is currently being discussed in the Bundestag, wants to allow exactly this in so-called minor cases. Up to 15 seconds of music, for example, should be allowed to be used license-free on the network.

hessenschau.de: Copyright - that sounds pretty boring. Why is this topic so important to you?

Janik Riegert: That's right. Copyright, that sounds so outdated - like old men who write on papyrus rolls with quills. But actually it's about culture, about what we as a society find extremely important. That we are colorful, multicultural, that we have a wide range of art that deals with our problems and emotions. Copyright simply protects the people who do it and allows them to make a living from it.

hessenschau.de: The draft law of the Federal Ministry of Justice is intended to implement an EU directive. The protest letter from over 1,000 musicians against it has the dramatic title "The horror never ends". What's so bad about the law?

Riegert: A big problem is that Germany is going it alone that all other EU countries do not go along - namely that you can use 15 seconds of music license-free. That's a lot of time when it comes to music. And of course that is a slap in the face, especially where music is being communicated and heard more and more digitally and where there are also a lot of formats that are no longer - be it Insta stories, Tiktok videos or short excerpts on YouTube. You don't get any remuneration for them at the moment and if this law goes through now, you wouldn't get anything for it in the future either.

hessenschau.de: If I were a Youtuber, could I play 15 seconds of one of your songs and wouldn't have to pay anything for it?

Riegert: Exactly. Youtube actually even has a system where you can share the income with the author. It's a fingerprinting system. Every song has a fingerprint, so you can see how long it has been running somewhere. And then you can share the advertising revenue accordingly. That's actually quite good. But if you used it for 15 seconds you wouldn't get anything.

hessenschau.de: This is referred to as "minor use" in the law. This not only applies to music up to 15 seconds, but also texts up to 160 characters or photos up to a certain amount of data. Fifteen seconds doesn't sound like anything at first. How much musical creativity is there in 15 seconds?

Josh Tapen: There's no way you can dismiss that as a bagatelle. A song like this can be explained very quickly in a few seconds, especially in the area of ​​pop music, where we are out and about. If you listen to the current charts, it's at least sixty to eighty percent of the songs that you recognize after three seconds, where such a hook is explained in ten seconds. And especially at a time when everything is consumed away like on Tiktok or Instagram, where you as a user simply swipe through, this is of course crucial. Music is unfortunately only consumed very briefly and that will get worse in the next few years because the attention span is no longer that high.

Riegert: You don't have a catchy tune from a 45-second long melody, but rather short snippets. That is why 15 seconds is not a trivial matter, but rather the entire work.

hessenschau.de: Now there is also criticism from the other side. Network activists say "The internet will break if you regulate us too much with copyrights. It must be possible to upload a parody or a film clip!" Do you understand this position?

Riegert: Definitely, parodies must still be possible. It would be in nobody's interest if you can't even deal with things without a license. But at the moment when money is being made, when advertising is being placed, where attention is being monetized, it cannot be that works are not protected. This not only applies to music, but also to texts and photographs - there has to be a licensing model that, in the best case scenario, involves people in a very uncomplicated and unbureaucratic manner.

Taping: The word copyright infringement sounds bad, you don't want to have anything to do with it. But you have to imagine what this is about: There are people who practice their profession and create works that others consume, with which money is made.

hessenschau.de: Do you have the hope that you will be heard in the legislative process?

Riegert: That is more than just a hope, it is being asked of the government! They should represent the interests of the people. On the other hand, there are global corporations that earn an incredible amount of money with our data, have enormous power and do not pay any taxes in the meantime. It is very important that the government says: We protect our cultural landscape and stand behind the musicians, copywriters and photographers and defend their rights.

The interview was conducted by Christoph Scheffer.

Broadcast: hr-iNFO, May 4, 2021, 1:12 p.m.

Source: hessenschau.de/Caroline Wornath

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