Legal question concerning tracking...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by hawaii5_o, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. hawaii5_o

    hawaii5_o Guest

    Situation: I record tracks at a studio. I pay in full for the time. They won't give me my raw tracks so I can bring them somewhere else to mix and master.

    Does this studio have any sort of legal right to with-hold my tracks or am I crazy?
  2. poprocks

    poprocks Guest

    Unless there is more to the story, that sounds shady to me. What medium did you record to? If you brought in your own hard drive or tapes, they gotta hand them over. Otherwise, unless you signed over your rights to the masters, they have no right to hold them. They may be pissed at you for taking your business elsewhere, but that's your right as a paying customer.

  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Well a lot depends on the studio ....... and their are some really strange things going lately.

    I did mastering on a client's material recently and one song had some really bad overs on it. I asked him if he could remix it and he told me NO that the ADATs they used were "rented" for the sessions and that they were erased after the session. Now this guy spend $10 per ADAT tape to rent them for the sessions but now he has nothing to go back to for a remix.

    Another studio near here does all their recording on hard drives. If the client does not want to spend the $250.00 for the removable hard drive the client leaves with the material mixed down onto a CD and that is it and the hard drives are erased. The same kind of things happened when people were recording to 2" analog tape. If they did not want to spend the $250.00 for the tape they used a roll of reused tape and it erased after the sessions.

    Sometimes in this digital world material recorded on one machine will only play back on that particular machine or one like it. Also in some of the newer all-in-one units it is impossible to get the individual tracks off the machine. I know because we had to have one of our clients bring in his machine for a mastering since he could not get the individual tracks off the machine even after he had mixed them down to two tracks.

    Could you let us know what the circumstances were in this situation? Thanks!

    Could you also let us know if you signed a contract with the studio and what it said as this maybe a sticking point if you signed away part of your rights to the raw tracks.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Tom has it all covered .... if you want to keep your tracks for future use, be sure you have purchased your own media.

    Tapes and hard drives are both media. Otherwise there's no guarentee your tracks will still be there if you need them later. It's sad that someone rented ADAT tape for $10, when they could have bought them for $15 or less. I used to get ADAT tape for $7.50 each in bulk.

    This is another example of how short sighted it can be to try cheap out on recording. Most times, it is better to bite the bullet and pay full boat for great gear and anything else needed. You can trip over dollars, trying to pick up pennies.
  5. geckormf

    geckormf Guest

    It's a tricky situation. Your raw data is considered part of your song and therefore part of your copyright. Studios render services defined by the Berne Convention as "work for hire" and as such, you keep all the rights to your intellectual property. There is no way they can legally keep your raw data, unless you've signed the masters over, which you would have done why? Not unless it's a label situation - I can't think of any other reasons to sign away your work and even that reason isn't so great. However, this is the real world... data gets corrupted, drives get formatted.

    US Copyright Law Section 202
    "Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a
    copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which
    the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object,
    including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does
    not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the
    object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership
    of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey
    property rights in any material object."

    Sorry, I'm assuming you're from the States. The law there, which is pretty similar regarding copyright around the world, says material objects (your raw tracks on disk) is not a transfer of your copyright. You still have the rights and you can demand/negotiate/beg to get the material.

    See if you can get the data transferred to CD/DVD/whatever format will work for you. Maybe you can offer to pay the studio time for transfers. Next time, bring your own drive. Good luck.

    I've forwarded this to my IP attorney out of interest. Let's see what the big dogs say.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:

    You bring up some good points.

    One thing that I get asked a lot is to give the mastering client all my settings that I used on each song. The want to know what eq was used, what compression ratios and even what the serial numbers are of the outboard equipment. This to me is intellectual property belonging to me. I will give the client all the raw tracks, any intermediate work and the final project but as to all the settings that is what I am getting paid to do and those are my property. People don't seem to realize that those settings will work for that song, on my equipment and in my setup. They cannot take those settings and use them on different material. They will not work.

    Clients tell me "But I paid for this information" and "I want this information so I can learn from it" Well you are paying me not for numbers on a compressor but for a complete mastering of your music. The way I do it is not black magic and if you want to sit in on the mastering you can write down anything you want but I am not going to do it for you. The same thing applies when I hear from a potential client who wants me to list all the equipment we have or all the plug ins we use. Those are not important to the mastering. What is important is that I know how to use them and the final result. I see studios listing all the equipment they own down to the midi interfaces amd DI boxes but what does that all tell you of the quality of the mastering or recording? basically NOTHING , it just tells someone where there is a lot of equipment sitting and is an open inviation to having it all stolen.


    On this topic of the rights to material that you performed. It is your material, you paid the studio for the time to record it but it is still your material. There cannot be an argument about that. What could be a sticking point is its return to you in some format that you can use. One studio near hear was asked to provide all the separate tracks used for a recording session. The client did not want the hard drive it was recorded to but wanted the tracks on a CD that they could take somewhere else and mix themselves. The studio owner said he would have to charge for the service but the client would not pay him for his time. The last I knew the client still did not have his material and the studio owner had a hard disk that he could not record over until this matter was resolved. The other problem is that if work was done on the project when you were not in attendance but with your approval the studio owner maybe able to charge you for additional time and will not release the material to you until those additional time charges are paid for.

    There are just too many variables to answer your question. Can you tell us some more about this?

  7. geckormf

    geckormf Guest

    I sometimes wonder if clients will ever understand that numbers and settings don't make a great mix. It's the equivalent of telling Disney to give over the rendering software used on an animation since "I paid for the DVD"

    Your IP point is completely valid - your skills as an ME and techniques used are considered yours. I know many studios where non-disclosure agreements are signed by the engineers and ME's regarding givig out that sort of info. If the client wants to sit in and take manual notes, different story.

    hawaii5_0, can you fill in the gaps - maybe we're all missing something.
  8. soundfarm

    soundfarm Guest

    This kind of scenario is precisely why I am against renting media as a service option for clients. Hard Drives and other digital media has become too affordable not to be able to purchase. Studios need to abandon this practice as much as possible!
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