VG Bild-Kunst is an association for the collective administration of copyrights. It currently has more than 60,000 members. They are artists who create visual works and have banded together so that they can administer jointly those copyright claims that cannot easily be administered individually. After administration costs have been deducted, the revenue arising from the exploitation of the rights of use and remuneration claims is distributed entirely to the members. In legal terms, therefore, Bild-Kunst is what is known as a collecting society (in German: Verwertungsgesellschaft), which is why it has the abbreviation “VG” in its name.
Bild-Kunst operates on a non-profit basis, but has the legal form of an economic association. Unlike a normal club or association, such as a tennis club, for instance, an economic association is focused on business operations. It cannot be founded by registration on a register of associations, but instead requires a state charter. Otherwise, however, association law applies. This brings certain benefits for the members, such as a right to vote. The members themselves thus decide on key issues concerning the association.
Authors of the three professional groups as well as their heirs may become members of VG Bild-Kunst. Membership is also open to publishers and picture agencies if they have been assigned the corresponding rights. If, for instance, a photographer works for a picture agency and assigns his or her image rights to it, these rights entitle the agency to become a member. For film producers, VG Bild-Kunst can administer the statutory neighbouring rights.
Membership is obtained by entering into an administration agreement in which the rightholder assigns some or all of their rights and their claims to VG Bild-Kunst. Since membership is free of charge, this is worthwhile even for beginners in the profession or artists who create works only occasionally.
The General Meeting is the supreme institution of VG Bild-Kunst and decides on the most important questions, particularly the rules according to which the income is distributed. Since VG Bild-Kunst groups together a great many different artists, it is divided into three professional groups (visual arts, images, film).
Each professional group elects six members to the Administrative Council for a term of office of three years. The Administrative Council monitors the works of the Executive Board and decides in particular on the question of which copyright claims VG Bild-Kunst is to administer, and under what terms.
Business is managed by a four-strong Executive Board. The Chief Executive Officer performs his duties on a full-time basis, while the other three are part-time and contribute their expertise to the three professional groups. In practice, the three chairpersons of the professional groups in the Administrative Council are also integrated in order to strengthen its influence.