Proprietary Issues & Ownership Rights

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by JoeH, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    This is a topic I'd like to kick around with everyone who's involved with clients that use your professional services for CDs, etc.

    It's hardly news that we're all working in an industry that's undergone a sea-change in everything from the recording chain to the storage/playback media in the last 5-10 years, and it's arguable if there even IS still a recording business above the grass roots level anymore. (RIP Sony Classical!)

    Whether or not you believe the stories that the CD is all but dead (with downloads and MP3 players everywhere), you're surely feeling the effects of "Do it yourselfers" and home-grown enthusiasts testing their wings by doing just that.

    I bring this up because I know we all have to be watching the horizon, studying the trends, and seeing what's coming next, always protecting our turf and our very livelihood....

    Lately, I am hearing more and more comments from clients like: "Well, we were ALMOST going to just rip the tracks from the CDs you made for us and do it ourselves, now that our new computer does it, but since it's for a lot of grant $$, we thought you should work from our stuff that you already have on file."

    This is comforting for the short term, but scary in the long run. It's now creeping into the mainstream (and OLDER clients, too), while it's been there for quite a while with the younger generation. The mindset is becoming: "Oh, we can do this on our OWN, now!" (like kitchen sink haircuts, homeschooling and making your own clothes from Simplicity patterns, I guess...)

    Just this morning I delivered a semi-finished concert CD to a new client (a very rich prep school for boys out in the 'burbs.) I have a production agreement in place with them about NOT altering our work. The CDs (2 disc set) run long with all the talking and superfluous stuff, but I made it clear it was a first-listen copy, and he could let me know what to take out, and how to edit it down to 1 disc for copies. He said (without a blink): "Oh, our kids can do that here, we have LOTS of music computers in our lab that can do this now." I was stunned at his attitude, esp in the face of our agreement.

    That may not be as big a deal as you'd think, but even so it may will impact my ability to make any $$ on copies later on. (Believe me, I did OK with the upfront fee, but still....) It's perhaps an isolated case, and at the High School level, it's certainly a cost-saver - for them. (Not to mention the music itself was hideously BAD. ;-) )

    My clients fall into many categories, some recordings are done in halls that require release forms (and add'l union payments should it go out "for profit"), some are done privately, and some are studio works. I try to make it clear in the agreement that we are providing a service to do the recording, and the client owns the "intellectual/artistic property", but the master itself is joint ownership, unless they want to buy it out entirely; materials, storage fees, masters, etc. The better groups are happy to work this way, but the mid-line and "do it yourselfers" are starting to annoy me, esp in how they wiggle "under the radar" nowadays.

    For grant$ and proposal$, I try to impress upon them that I am working from the original 24 bit masters for many of these things. I even try to sober them a bit by remindning them that for grants, they might indeed be competing with ME - esp if they're submitting a "Do it yourself" ripped or quasi-edited CDr vs. something I've done for their competitor who's after the same grant $$$. (And it DOES happen, even just this week...) I ask them: Do you REALLY want to take a chance with "Junior" in the copy room ripping a few tracks for you onto an Office Max CDr, or do you want to do it correctly, with proper fades, edits, etc.? The smart ones "Get it," but I'm still a little worried....


    So it begs these questions: How do YOU control your work? Do you function simply as a "hired gun" and give it all away afterwards, or do you have production agreements in place? Is it a verbal agreement, or even a handshake? How do you feel about your work turning up on another CD compilation somewhere, or to see copies of things YOU have recorded showing up on someone's player with (or even without) a cheapo-label on it....even though it's CLEARLY your work. Does it matter to you, if you've made the $$ up front?

    Are you OK with someone altering your work, even if it's just a client ripping a track here and there?

    your thoughts?
     

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