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Copyright Permission

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by bcarterwr, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. bcarterwr

    bcarterwr Active Member

    Hello all,

    I have been a member of this forum for quite some time but seldom post because the answers can usually be found if sought hard enough. However, I have researched this one and can't get a definative answer on the subject.

    If I have an artist come in and do a recording of a copyrighted song and use it only to give to a few relatives and friends and possibly to send off to a few labels, is the artist required to get a mechanical licence or do any thing else to legalize the activity?

    Under the fair use act, if a reproduced product does not affect the marketability of the original, then it is considered fair use. However, other issues that you folks may know of might come into play.

    Also, what is my obligation and liability (if any) as engineer of the project if the client pays for and retains all rights to the recording?
  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    It is a question with wide repercussions. You could be sued for a couple of million if he does not have permission and you knew that he did not and you record him/her. (This happened to a replciation facility in California a couple of years ago - they were sued for 5 million dollars for duplicating a CD (less than 1000 copies) that contained copyrighted material. FWIW I would give a call to an entertainment lawyer and ask him/her for the clear definition of "what constitutes fair use" That is a very tricky question. Fair use is usually used in an educational setting and not for commercial ventures.

    I have my clients sign a form before I master them that was made up by my lawyer absolving me from suit if they record or cause to be recorded or duplicate a copyrighted song. The onus is on them. It took my lawyer about 1/2 an hour and about $100.00 to draw up the form but if it will prevent a million dollar law suit it is money well spent.

    The problem with fair use is its scope.

    Here are a couple of websites for your information




    I am not a lawyer but I do know something about copyrights since I worked for an institution that was always having to secure copyrights for performances and recordings and it is not an easy task. I would check with a professional - an entertainment lawyer would be my first call.

    You don't want to wind up being sued for a small job that you really did not get a lot of money for in the first place.

    Hope this helps
  3. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    In general, it is my understanding that it's not the job of the engineer to make sure all of the T's are crossed and i's dotted. I don't know of any engineer that has been sued for this either. Then again, you do know so that may be another story. A duplication facility can be held liable because they are reproducing copywrited material for resale. But i'm not so sure on the liability of creating something. A lawyer is now your best bet. Now that that has been said, it's also probably not a good idea to record a known song and submit it back to a label. you actually may be giving it to the person that owns it. It could fall under the same kind of protection of say a karoke thing or one of those sing to a song and we'll put it on cassette. it's not for resale, but handing it to a label doesn't sound wise.
  4. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Your description does not constitute "fair use". Fair use is similar to buying an original and then making a copy so the original is pristine, it in no way allows for multiple duplication except in some educational purposes.

    However, it has never been easier to get mechanical license via internet and the harry fox agency' This site has the procedure and info for all you would need.


  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I wish that were the case but unfortunately in this "sue first ask questions later" society that we all live in it is not the case.

    See these sites





    and there are a whole lot more that cover just this topic.

    The RIAA is made up mostly of lawyers and their choice is to sue first and then find a way to justify their actions.

    The major record companies have legal departments that rival some of the ones in the US Government and they are looking for excuses to blame the falling CD sales on anyone and anything.

    This is not a good time to be in the position of being a "jail house lawyer" and trying to decide whether what you are doing constitutes a crime. It is better to have someone in the legal profession do that determination for you as they are up on the latest trends and judgments and can spot a potential problem area that you may not even be aware of.

    Duplication companies can and are being sued and engineers can be sued as well. It is best to ante up for the real legal advice and not try and DIY.

    Copyright infringement is everybody's problem and everyone has to be aware of its legal repercussions. There is no such thing as "gee I didn't know it was copyrighted" plea - ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

  6. bcarterwr

    bcarterwr Active Member

    Thanks for the replies. I will make sure that the artist understands these responsiblilities.

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