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Who owns what?


A Television station hired me to run live sound for a band using my PA and gear, they also paid me to record the band (multi-track, brought back into studio and mixed post). The event was sponsored by the TV station and they shot the videos of the band. I sent over the audio as a L/R track so they could dub it into the videos.

Who owns rights to the masters? There were no contracts, just cash for a job well done. I'll be doing future work with these guys and I want to make sure I know where I stand, especially if I need to draw up a contract.

SO, the band obviously owns the song, but I think I own the recording, of course the TV station paid ME to do the recording in the first place...



JoeH Tue, 10/10/2006 - 20:27

Ummm.....I don't think you own the recording per se. (Just curious: Who paid for the raw materials - the CDr's, tapes or Hard Disc space? You may have a TINY edge there if you didn't charge for them outright.)

Intellectually, the songwriter(s) own the song; artistically, the band owns the rights to the performance, and most likely, those who paid for the recording itself (The TV Studio?) owns the actual mechanical recording. (They probably have an agreement in place with the band for number of airings allowed - one, two or more broadcasts allowed.)

If you are a company that does this for a living and were hired by the band to do this for them, then you'd have a production agreement in place with them with more specifics (In that case, the TV station wouldn't be the one paying you, either.)

If your company volunteered to do this on your own dime for future speculative work or joint partnership with the band, then you'd have a case for "Owning" the mechanical recording, but I don't think that's the case here.

Sorry, but it seems like you're simply a hired gun to do a specific job, no more and no less.

I make broadcast recordings all the time under similar circumstances for a local FM radio station, and the pecking order is clear:

The artist owns the performance, the radio station owns the master and airs it with the artist's permission & cooperation. Any further use of the recording has to be negotiated with the artist and the radio station. Of course, I am the keeper of the masters and enjoy the perks of making copies, edits, compilations, etc., but I have no delusions as to who actually owns it: the people who cut the check.

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 10/11/2006 - 05:25

I would also echo what JoeH said.

But would like to add that the time to get this kind of question answered is always BEFORE the event not afterwords.

We do a radio show for a client 4 times a year. The client pays us for the recording, the broadcast, the concert sound and the video of the production. The radio station does the concert live but we have no contract with the radio station only with our client. Our client owns the material and pays us for doing our "thing" and the radio station acts simply as a vehicle for getting the show on the air. What contractual arrangements are between our client and the radio station are not something we need to know.

JoeH is right on the money (as usual) and I think in this case you were only a hired gun and acted only in the capacity to facilitate the broadcast of the show and don't really own anything. If the station had the equipment and the knowhow they could have done the broadcast without you.

If you have questions of this sort it is ALWAYS a good idea to get them settled BEFORE hand so their are no nagging questions later.

Hope this helps.

anonymous Wed, 10/11/2006 - 07:56

>>Of course the TV station paid ME to do the recording in the first place...

Which makes it 'work for hire' (that means they own the recording, not you). I am surprised they didin't have you sign a contract though. Must be a small station. The lack of written releases/contract has gotten many people in trouble in the past and I am sure it will do so in the future.

Sign papers, always!

anonymous Wed, 10/11/2006 - 15:09

Thanks everyone for their input. I agree about a contract before, this was a last minute deal and there were no problems getting paid or anything else. I will be doing future work with them and I needed to get clear in my mind who owned what before I tried getting a production agreement together. This helps.

Thanks to everyone.

anonymous Wed, 10/11/2006 - 23:41

>>Do I have the right to use the samples in demo disks and promos for my company? Would I have to obtain the rights from the band or from the television station?

The song publisher and/or distributor control(s) that part of the business.

Generally speaking, whenever you give a CD (or place music on the NET) which contains material you do NOT own (or are not authorized to distribute) constitutes unauthorized publishing/distribution, even if it's for promo purposes. That means that you are essentially giving away someone else's work, without permission to do so.

My advice is: Get WRITTEN permission for EVERYTHING, always, no exceptions!

Moreover, there is NO need to compile a CD as a promo. Why? Because if the work you do ends up in commercially released CDs you simply put a client list and the CD names on your webpage. It looks much more impressive to say "hey, if you want to hear my work simply buy X, Y, Z latest album..." than to have a self-compiled CD.

Finally, if your work does NOT end up in commerically released CDs simply have your prospective clients listen to your recordings in your studio. You can definitely do that without worrying about any legal issues.