VDT is a professional organization of sound directors, producers and
engineers. Today it has more than 1300 members, most of them German, but also from other countries all over the world. VDT is subdivided in seven regional groups: Berlin und die Neuen Bundesländer, Köln, Südwest, Nord, München, Rhein-Main, Schweiz.

Sound Director’s Rights - the German view

Tobias Könemann, one of ESDA’s legal advisers explains the position of Sound Directors under German Law.

In the area of music recording, for about twenty years VDT has actively supported claims of studio producers as owners of neighbouring rights. All these claims have, up to now, been rejected by the courts of last instance because of the way they have interpreted the clause concerning performing artists´ neighbouring rights under German copyright law.

The German court has held that a performance has to be public and that the artist´s contribution must take place during such a performance but, in the case of the studio producer, whom they generally acknowledge to be an artist, they deny that such a performance takes place. The Courts maintain that a producer’s influence takes place sometime before the performance by way of arranging the technical
environment, working on the already recorded sound material, generally after the performance has been made.

So VDT has now adopted a new series of tactics, focussing on the legislative process at both the national level and, through ESDA, the European Union. VDT is lobbying for an amendment to the German Copyright law such that a recording (or fixation) of a performance is considered a performance itself whenever the recording is the final artistic result - as is typical in all studio productions.

Great care is being taking before these new initiatives are launched. Studio producers, as a very small group with limited resources may find it hard to influence the legislators - particularly at a time when copyright law is facing so many technological challenges. It may also be that some artists may not take kindly to new claims from their royalty pot.

Meanwhile, in the film business, VDT is supporting a lawsuit by a Filmtonmeister who is responsible for the final mix of feature films. The Filmtonmeister is seeking to be accepted (along with the director, cameraman and editor) as a co-author of the film. This lawsuit has now reached court of last instance after having been successful in the lower court. If the decision in the lower court is confirmed, VDT will have orchestrated an important break through in the struggle for the recognition of the rights of audio
professionals in the audio visual world.

English Translation by Tobias Könemann and Peter Filleul

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