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Who owns master recordings?
Old 20th February 2013
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Who owns master recordings?

Just to explain a situation and see what you guys think....

I have produced some tracks for a guy.... he has paid me $1000 a month for me to be in the studio for 5 hours a day M-F... To engineer and produce and melodyne and mix tracks.... (Strictly because I believe in this artist... or I wouldn't work for $10 an hour.)

he now believes he owns the master recordings...

I told him that is incorrect and that our situation was a work for hire and the $1000 covered me as a mix engineer and gave him no stake in the master recordings.. mainly due to the fact that the tracks themselves I could go sell to other clients for much more...

I believe I am correct in my stance but wanted to make sure I wasn't letting my Ego get the best of me.
Old 20th February 2013
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Led Music's Avatar
I'm curious why this wasn't worked out beforehand?
That would seem like the logical thing to do.
Old 20th February 2013
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Thread Starter
Very logical and completely agree... with this situation we let that fall through the cracks for sure. In the start it was more about me helping develop a sound he was looking for that I already had. I was going to do the regular 50/50 on everything till he wanted to tie me down to be in the studio daily for certain hours or his choosing and work on other mixes of songs that weren't mine and other tasks.... we agreed for me to be in the studio for the hours discussed it would cost $1000... and thats how it was left.
Old 20th February 2013
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Thread Starter
essentially I am asking is.... The money doesn't justify him owning the master of a song I created. Right? So if he owned the master then I was technically working for free on all the other stuff when I could have just sold him the master of the song for a flat fee...

Does that make sense or no?
Old 20th February 2013
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Led Music's Avatar
It's a shame you didn't settle this beforehand because you have no documentation or written agreement to settle any financial dispute now.

If he was paying you to produce a track for him in his studio then to be honest I think he would own it.
You would have producer credits, but since he paid you, i'm guessing he assumed that whatever you did during that time in his studio is all his.

I see his point but I see yours also.

Just so i'm clear. You worked in his studio for a month and produced/created/recorded/mixed a track where he was the artist?
Old 20th February 2013
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Thread Starter
I totally agree, this head ache was completely avoidable but, You have it correct. That is a point that he has brought up since this issue has come to light using the studio as leverage.... where as I have access to other facilities that I work out of regularly and never asked to use his space. I was there for the sole purpose (As to my knowledge) of being hired to help him with his career by producing, creating, recording, mixing and co-song writing.... I just can't justify in my mind the little amount of money paid for all that he would be receiving from me.... try and get anyone to work for $1000 as a producer, mix engineer, song writer... its laughable. There for I believe either A. we both own 50/50 or B. he buys the track out right from me for a price .. He can not own the master 100%.... thats ludicrous.
Old 20th February 2013
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Thread Starter
And to add on top of all of this... the lyrics and concept where done by another producer/song writer with minimal % coming from artist at all. So another reason he can't own the master...
Old 20th February 2013
From a legal standpoint, in the absence of a contract stating otherwise, anyone who performed on the sound recording is an equal owner of it. So this would include you as a musician, and him as a vocalist.

The same would be true for anyone who wrote/composed part of the composition. All parties would be equal owners (publishers) of that copyright.

If you were under the impression that you were only being paid as a producer/engineer, then this definitely should have been established beforehand!

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.
Old 20th February 2013
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Paul_GWilliams's Avatar
My situation was similar regarding handing over project files...not saying this is 100% correct but I asked the musicians union & also the performing rights society &...

"when it comes to copyright & publishing law once money changes hands the person/company who pays the fee effectively owns the rights to those pieces of work.. Unless this is agreed before hand & signed/agreed on"

Mandatory status seems to be once your paid they own it.. That's why if I do things where the fee is minimal is rather do it for free to keep that stand point..

there seems to be so much bullsh*t about from these bedroom producers with rubbish like "leasing beats".. the majority of people quote without having a clue!

but I'd argue unless there was a contract at the start signed for the work then you can argue the masters because it wasn't officially done.. Ie just a verbal agreement!

people are genuinely clueless these days it's worth the extra time & cost to cover ur back because I know 1 thing 100%.. If you make it big someone will crawl from somewhere claiming this same kinda thing!
Old 20th February 2013
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The reality is that there is no clear answer because you guys never actually came up with an agreement. Lesson learned obviously.

First, your argument that he has no stake in the master recordings pretty much has no grounds whatsoever so you can give up on that one – it would be a massive uphill battle you are nearly certain to lose. Your best case scenario is that you both co-own the sound recordings and you can make a legal argument to this point. However, he probably has a stronger argument that he owns 100% of the sound recordings because he actually paid you. Although being paid for studio time, or to produce or to engineer does not automatically waive your rights to the sound recording, it is generally held that in the absence of any agreement, it is typically considered a work for hire. In other words, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s usually a duck. Not always a duck, but usually a duck. Typically, if someone pays another person to engineer and produce and mix that work will be understrood in the agreement (which you don’t have) to be work for hire or an equivalent whereby that person gives up their interests in ownership to the sound recording.

So to summarize, with regard to the sound recording rights:
Least likely scenario that could be argued: you own 100% of the sound recordings
Somewhat likely scenario that could be argued: you both co-own the sound recordings
Most likely scenario that could be argued: he owns 100% of the sound recordings

Which argument would win in court depends on how good your arguments are, third party witnesses to discussions that could actually be an agreement, and a lot of detail that isn’t obviously in this thread. But based on what’s been supplied, those are the three scenarios. If you both co-own the recordings then either party can use them or license them on a non-exclusive bases so long as they make sure the other party gets their pro-rata share. But neither party can do anything exclusive, nor destroy the recordings. Note that because we are talking about sound recording rights, any use would also have to clear with the publisher for the mechanical, performance or sync rights inherent in the composition. If you successfully argue that you own 100% of the sound recording rights, then you basically give him a slam-dunk to require that he get all profits until he is reimbursed what he paid you – so think long and hard before you make that argument.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with the rights to the songs.

My personal belief is that if I were in your shoes, I would never expect to have any ownership in the sound recordings unless there was a specific discussion about my retaining some ownership, and of course that would then be put in writing. If I were working at a seriously reduced rate as you’ve suggested, then I might argue for co-ownership, but never 100% ownership. That’s a little nuts in my book.

Oh, and by the way, never get legal advise on this forum because 99% of people on here have no freakin' clue what they are talking about.
Old 20th February 2013
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ears2thesky's Avatar
This is a cautionary tale about why you NEED a contract.

Good luck.
Old 20th February 2013
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Thread Starter
Def not Chris haha I have a lawyer for that, but I came here for the purpose of seeing what other people like myself thought about this situation and as you have pointed out... it does seem I am being a bit unfair for sure.

I appreciate all the replys on this thread def helped clear my head on this.
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