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Are these tracks mine?

Member for

21 years
Ok...I need to look further into this and I feel this is a great place to start.

here's what happened. I went into a home studio and recorded. We recorded and I asked him for the original tracks. he gave them to me. Then I also asked him for the tracks after he had done the editing as I wasnt quite done with some of the adjustments. he lives in Boulder...I tour around and Im in Boulder barely ever. So I have an engineer here in Arizona that is ready to make the adjustments. The engineer who recorded it isnt wanting to give me the broken up songs by individual track. I, as the artist, feel like I have the right to the songs that I made and that he then mixed in their individual tracks. That way I can make the changes and adjustments that are needed. With only having the original unedited tracks I would have to have the engineer in Arizona start again--that be a big wast of time, money, and good work that the guy in boulder did. So, someone please advise i have a legal right to the individual tracks post editing??

thanks for your advice everyone, it is so much appreciated.



Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Wed, 12/12/2007 - 18:08
I have read this over and over and I'm still not quite clear on what you mean when you refer to the 'broken up individual tracks' and you also say he's provided the 'tracks' to you. Seems with the 'tracks' you could take it to any decent engineer and open things up as they are and do your work.

As a point of clarification, Masters refers to a finished stereo recording ready to be a redbook master for CD duplication .

Member for

15 years 2 months

natural Wed, 12/12/2007 - 19:08
I am sure he's referring to the protools session document, which will include any processing and automation done to the tracks. These can include any processing done within PT as well as any outboard gear used.

If he agreed to master's only, then the Boulder engineer has covered his end even if there was a misunderstanding about what ' master ' meant. He supplied both the Master mix and the master tracks. The processing is stored in the Protools file and doesn't exist as physical audio file. So qberthightech is misinformed about them when he states "broken up songs by individual track. I, as the artist, feel like I have the right to the songs that I made and that he then mixed in their individual tracks"

This very likely doesn't exist.

By agreeing to receive the 'Masters' it would therefore be assumed that the Boulder Engineer is entitled to retain something. Since he gave him the original files and the mixes, the only thing left would be the protools files.

Now, on the other hand, I'm sure for a small nominal fee (well, maybe not so small) the Boulder enginner would Bounce down each track with the processing and automation, this would make the client happy and he (the Boulder Engineer) wouldn't have to disclose how he arrived at said processing. However be aware that this could take many hours to accomplish. A typical 5 min song with 24 tracks will take a minimum of 2+ hours to do just the bouncing. If there is outboard gear to set up, then even longer. Then the files need to be properly labeled, archived, packed, and shipped to the other studio. So let's just say it's going to take a good part of a day to "get 'er done"
The only problem with this is that the client could not easily undo any processing. That's the beauty of the having the Protools Docs so that things can be undone or changed. It's these docs that the Boulder engineer is claiming to be his property. He will insist that these are HIS tools and workmanship that he has used to create the finished master. It's a little bit like asking a guitar player to hand over his custom made guitar so that client can continue to work with another guitar player and still get the same sound.
This has been a highly debatable topic at the Digidesign web site in the past.

Now, on the other, other hand, (we're out hands now aren't we?) One could possibly argue that 'Master' could also refer to the MASTER PROTOOLS FILES. But one would need a lawyer to pull that one off. In which case you would probably spend less money to remix at the new studio.

So in the future clients should insist on owning:
- The raw master tracks
- Any processed tracks
- All session files and documents (masters as well as any copies)
- ALL mixes including ruffs, and masters (be they tape or audio files.)

One way to accomplish this is to provide your own Hard Drive, and have all work either done on this drive or copied to this drive after EACH AND EVERY session.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Wed, 12/12/2007 - 22:34
I completely agree with all your handy points.(har...)

When I mixed our last album, I provided a drive and all of the fader moves, software plugs etc was stored there until I decide to remix it sometime in the future. So, no, the artist does NOT own the rights to these things automatically simply because he has performed on them. They have to be an arranged deal and paid for like anything else. Perhaps an offer of a days lock-out to the Boulder City studio would suffice. As far as having some unknown trick to making tracks sound a certain way, I dont think thats possible given the plethora of ProTools rigs out there at this time. The only difference might be the version of or lack of particular plugs used in the making of the mix.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 12/13/2007 - 15:10
You own what the contract says you own and nothing more.

Handshakes use to be a good way of doing business but recently the lawyers of the world have ruined that simple way of doing business and you have to have a contract for ALMOST anything you do. If you want a cell phone you have to sign a contract, if you want a car you have to sign a contract, if you want your tapes AFTER the recording session you have to put that into the contract and have both parties sign,

I did some mastering for a very nice Johnny Cash impersonator. The mastering came off very well and he got the mastered tracks. Then his wife/business manager decided that she wanted not only the tracks but all my settings, the names of all my plug-ins and the name and serial numbers of all outboard equipment that I used in mastering her husband's material. I refused on the grounds that she got what she paid for - the mastered tracks and that HOW it did it was intellectual property that belonged to me. She threatened to SUE me but I think she talked to her lawyer and he told her that he did not the legal means to compel me to give her all my intellectual property. She backed off but it was nip and tuck for a while.

I think a calm discussion with the Bolder engineer is in your best interest and if needed agree to pay him for his time and provide him the hard drive needed to transfer all of your stuff from his computer. If this is his intellectual property then he maybe completely within his rights to say NO!

Best of luck! :wink:

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 12/14/2007 - 15:51
thanks everyone for your interest and replies....I definitely shoudl have told him that i needed the PT sessions instead of just the masters. I did say to him that I needed the tracks so that I cab do remixes and so forth...there was no clarification though whether this was pre or post editing. That being said here is the letter i wrote to him:

'Hi Chris....I did a good deal of research in the last few days and it seems there has been debate for years about who owns protools tracks. I definitely think that we had some miscommunication and maybe some technical naiveity on my part. What I should have clarified from the start was that I needed the mastered PT files...not just the masters. So can we try to come up with a solution to make us both happy? I realize that it is VERY time consuming for you to get me the PT tracks and that can also display your workmanship as well. I hope you understand from my end that I just want to finish the album and Im only in AZ for another week. That being said, is there a resolution that we can come up with that would be comfortable for us both? I wish to settle this in as fair and quick manner as possible.'

oh..if anyone wants to hear any of the tracks...they are #2-4

thanks again!


Member for

15 years 2 months

natural Fri, 12/14/2007 - 17:40
Hope you didn't send that letter yet.
It should say:
- PROTOOLS SESSION FILES - not "Protools tracks"
- MASTER PT SESSION FILES' not "Mastered PT Files"

Remember, there are no tracks related to the PT session files.
The session files, uses the tracks that you already have and applies various fx or vol, pan, etc adjustments on playback.

In the old days if you hired, say, Phil Spector to mix an album, he would dial up various gear and use his fav settings and route everything in his own secret and strange way. He may have notated some of these settings, or he may have just kept a lot of it in his hairy little head.
If you wanted to make some changes later on, you would need to open your wallet again to Mr Spector because he was the only one that knew what was set up and for what.

Now, I should have told you this before, but even if Mr Boulder Engineer sends you his PT Session Files, there's a good chance that your new engineer is going to need to spend quite a bit of time figuring out what was routed where and why. Sometimes it's obvious, but a lot of times it's not.
A change in one track may have been made to solve a problem that's happening on some other track further down the line.
Many times, I only use the other engineers basic ideas, but I need to scrap a lot of it and start over just so things make sense to me. It's difficult to make adjustments to something that someone else did if you don't take the time to figure out why he did what he did.
Also there may be some compatibility issues. You'll need to make sure that both studios have the same plugin's and any outboard gear.
Let us know how it turns out.

Member for

16 years

RemyRAD Tue, 12/11/2007 - 10:26
I frequently do recordings for people where I handover the multitrack master. Provided I'm paid in full of course. But depending upon how it was recorded, postprocessing may not reside on the multitrack masters? It sounds to me like he wants to give you the original unprocessed/unedited multitrack master? Yes, you may have to take two steps back to take one step forward. It doesn't sound like he doesn't want to provide you with what you want, it just sounds like he wants to provide you with what he can deliver to you conveniently. With certain kinds of proprietary based software/equipment, delivering to you editing information that he did they not be compatible with anybody else's system?

Also, you don't quite know what his digital workflow may be? He may not know how to deliver your post credited multitrack stuff, in a post edited way? Just because you recorded with somebody does not mean that they are fully technically competent. It might take him numerous hours to pull it off with a large capacity hard disk drive. But I don't quite understand his reluctance? You may want to ask him? Was this a project he believed he was collaborating with you?

Either way, it sounds like you or him may not have been clear about certain things? As a person who works in the communications industry, we rarely communicate well between ourselves. And technical babble to be quite confusing.

A funny thing happened on the way to the disk drive
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 12/11/2007 - 22:11
We had an oral agreement that he would do the album for $400...i actually gave him $500. We didnt do the whole album...only 6 songs...thats fine. We agreed from the start that I would get the masters. I guess we never clarified whether it was the original masters before or after his work. My friend is trying to mediate this situation. He told me that the Boulder engineer is concerned the Arizona engineer will 'steal' his tricks. This files are all pro tools files, so it seems like he could just zip them up and send it over. Im kind of at a standstill here. I cant get the tracks that were worked on to be worked on more. I hoping this will work out. any more advice?

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 12/11/2007 - 23:59
From my point of view, you have every right to claim the files in every possible format and version, if (but only if) it was agreed as part of your "contract" that the specific version/format is part of the contract.

So, in this case, I fear you'll have no legal rights on the edited individual tracks. You both agreed on the "master" (which actually means the finished product, right before it goes to duplication).
If you were mistaken, and actually meant "individual tracks" by saying "master", you're lucky, you've already got the individual tracks without paying for them.

So from the engineers point of view, you already got what you paid for, plus the individual tracks. And now you want even more.
Depending on how wise you chose your words when you talked to him (you hopefully didn't say things like "legal rights"?), I would not be surprised if the engineer doesn't want to give out his work out to you, and even if, not for free.