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Legal action toward engineers?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by took-the-red-pill, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Hi all,

    I understand that this is a newbie question, and it's all hypothetical at this point, but:

    Let's say I record someone's song for them. In my case it would just be a demo. I claim no rights to it whatsoever.

    Now let's say the song ends up later being recorded and distributed. A record company comes along and decides to sue them for copyright infringement. Is there a chance I could be named in the lawsuit since I'm the guy who pressed record? I highly doubt it, but I'm just trying to make sure I don't get some nasty surprise someday.

    Cheers mates
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm not a lawyer but I play one on TV. Lol.
    I had this exact same conversation with an attorney friend of mine some years back and his answer was No.
    You are providing a service. It's the artist's or producer's responsibility to clear licensing.
    Your job as an engineer is to hit the R button and to then mix the performances into a cohesive product. You are not responsible for the content. There is a slight possibity that you could be called in to testify as a witness if it went as far as litigation, but there wouldn't be any charges directed towards you. Unless of course, you were your own client. ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  3. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks for the prompt reply.

    So when they sign up with you to record, do you make them confirm they've got copyright on their stuff, or is it none of your concern?
  4. Reverend Lucas

    Reverend Lucas Active Member

    I'm sort of in the same boat. A bagpiper I recorded a while back has some old reels he wants me to digitize. After looking into what was on the reels, it turns out they're of two pipers that are pretty big names in the bagpipe world, recorded when he was at the College of Piping in the fifties. He just wants to use them for personal listening. I'm not sure if what's on them would be worth putting out for historical record, or what the legal implications of that might be.
  5. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    There is a section in the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act that covers unwitting copyright contravention.
    The examples I can find link this with the defendant convincing the court with evidence supporting their stance - so if a client tells you the work is copyright cleared, you can't be made to pay any damages.

    I have some material I recorded featuring a now famous person's pretty dreadful performance - but I dare not make it available, as I'm certain it's a shortcut to court as she has a BIG name record company now.

    Equally, I have edited material provided me by an artiste, given to her by the BBC. The DVD has no copyright warnings on it, nor does the contents - but when I queried it with the artiste, she confirmed in an email that she'd been given the media by the BBC to do exactly what I was going to do - turn it into a showreel. I made an extra copy of the email, stuck it into the filing cabinet and did the edit. ironically, my edit then appears on numerous websites and even her management companies site - which wasn't part of my understanding (or fee!) It was for her own web site - so is that another misuse of rights? Funny really!
    Reverend Lucas likes this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I suppose you could have some type of waiver written up - something that the client signs, stating that they alone are responsible for creative works clearance/licensing, and that you are responsible solely for the recording process, and have no say one way or the other, nor any responsibility, as to what artistic works your clients decide to record.

    A simple one page document that indemnifies you from any legal action would suffice, something that simply states:

    I, (client name), agree that I am solely responsible for obtaining clearance/permission/licensing, and for paying any fees or royalties to the appropriate party of ownership for (name of song).
    (You or your company name) is not responsible in any way for any legal action, suite for damages/infringement, etc. that could arise from the use of this song in any way, legal, or otherwise.
    In signing this document, I am relieving Your Name of any responsibilities, other than as a technical consultant of said entitled works.

    And then they sign it, which you would then keep on file.

    Don't use the above example. I'm not an attorney. Either research the language yourself, or, get an attorney to write something up for you. You may even be able to find something like this on a legal documents download website, such as THIS.

    In fact, there's nothing stopping you from having all your clients sign this type of waiver - if written correctly, it would protect you in any event.... should a client bring in some obscure song that you wouldn't know as belonging to someone else - another songwriter or publisher, etc., or, if they collaborated on it with someone else - who is maybe unaware that it is being recorded.

    I think what you are looking for is referred to as a "hold harmless" agreement:

    Reverend Lucas likes this.

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