How Best to Prepare for Elections in Collecting Societies

According to the law in Germany, every member of a collecting society must have the opportunity to participate electronically in the collecting society’s elections. This is one of the reasons why the majority of general meetings, votes and elections in German collecting societies are already conducted digitally.

There’s a lot to organize! From registering for the election to actually voting and being represented by other members.

Let us guide you through how best to prepare for your next general assembly of members. We’ll also show you what digital solutions we can offer.

Elections in collecting societies: organization in the run-up

Elections in collecting societies usually take place once a year at the general assembly of members. As there’s a variety of topics to discuss and many items require a vote, the meetings tend to last several days. Members vote on agenda items – such as the statutes of the collecting society, the appointment of the supervisory and administrative boards, or business relations with other organizations.

Many collecting societies in Germany hold elections before the meeting and vote live on various issues during the event. To best prepare these elections and the event, it can be very useful to map them digitally.

According to the law, every member of a collecting society must also have the opportunity to participate in the general assembly of members “without being present and without a proxy”.

They’re also allowed to exercise the “right to vote by way of electronic communication”. (Section 19(3) German Act on the Management of Copyright and Related Rights by Collecting Societies (VGG)).

What do collecting societies do?

Collecting societies protect and manage the rights and remuneration claims of their members in relation to copyright.

In Germany, there are a total of 13 different collecting societies (VG). The most well-known amongst them are
GEMA,  VG Wort and VG Bild-Kunst.

They not only protect the rights of composers, lyricists and music publishers (GEMA), but also those of authors and publishers (VG Wort) or visual artists and photographers (VG Bild-Kunst).

In addition to monitoring the use of works, they conclude contracts with users on behalf of the copyright owners on the type and duration of use and potential fees to be paid.

The copyright owners themselves have to pay fees for the collecting societies’ administrative costs, which are deducted from their income. The
German Act on the Management of Copyright and Related Rights by Collecting Societies (VGG) governs the legal framework of collecting societies in Germany. In addition, all collecting societies are subject to the supervision of the German Patent and Trademark Office.


The collecting society can use pre-registration to find out how many members will be attending the assembly, who will be taking part in the online election and who will be voting live at the event.

How to Best Prepare Elections in Collecting Socieites

It’s not uncommon for eligible voters to transfer their voting rights to their publisher or another person if they themselves are unable to attend the meeting. This information can also be requested in advance.

Depending on how registration is organized, the entire event registration can be handled digitally in advance. Furthermore, the login credentials required for electronic voting can then be sent automatically to registered members.

This digital procedure saves both time and effort on the part of the event and election organizers.

Digital transfer of voting rights

But how does the transfer of voting rights work in digital voting? It’s not uncommon for members of collecting societies to be prevented from voting on the day of an election. In this instance, they often transfer their voting rights to their own publisher or a friend. In Germany, collecting societies are obliged to facilitate the transfer of voting rights and must check the respective application in advance. The German law states:

“Members must each be entitled by law or under the collecting society’s statute to also have their rights exercised by a proxy at the general assembly of members[…]” (Section 19(4) VGG)

The POLYAS proxy voting feature allows eligible voters to cast different and separate votes for their own ballot papers and for proxy ballot papers. POLYAS Online Voting and Live Voting enable a total of 25 votes to be cast by one single proxy and also allow an unrestricted transfer of voting rights.

Should you require a restricted transfer of voting rights, please use our “Ballot weighting” feature >

The German VG Wort is the only collecting society to date that’s used both the transfer of voting rights and verification codes for their digital general assembly of members with POLYAS. These codes enable the 1,200 members entitled to vote to check that the vote has been entered in the digital ballot box as requested. Combining these two features has allowed VG Wort to implement both the usual proxy rule and individual verification of the vote digitally.


International collecting societies

On an international level, collecting societies are affiliated to umbrella organizations.

The largest umbrella organization is the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC). It incorporates 161 member collecting societies in 87 countries, representing copyright owners from the fields of music, literature, film and the visual arts.

Other major umbrella organizations include the Bureau International de l’Edition Mecanique (BIEM), which represents authors from the music sector and the record industry, and the European Groupement Européen des Sociétés d’Auteurs et Compositeurs (GESAC) and the European Visual Artists (EVA).