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Publishing rights when songwriting == "recording"
Old 28th March 2019
Gear Maniac
calzone's Avatar

Publishing rights when songwriting == "recording"

With digital production becoming so widespread, at what point can we no longer separate the concept of copyright for a written work vs copyright for a "recording"?

If you write and produce an entire EDM track in the box for a label… the label is essentially providing mastering and distribution only. The "recording" is not an actual recording. The unique sound of your instrumentation, the effects applied from compression to EQ become an integral and inseparable part of the writing of the track itself. It may become arguably impossible to "perform" some tracks without reproducing what is essentially, for all ears listening, the exact same waveform that was published.

As an author of such a track, you do own the copyright. You're free to reproduce this authorship at will or even make a new performance of it and sell it at will.

The traditional way this has worked is the label owns the publishing rights to the "recording" — i.e., the actual performance as captured in the studio with the intent to mass-copy and distribute for sale. The songwriter typically repaints ownership over the lyrics and music. So there's always been a sort of separation of two copyrights, each with often different owners and each with different legal requirements as to who gets paid under which circumstances when the work is performed or played by someone else.

But. now it seems like lots of modern tracks have the potential to not fit that clean separation.

Is the industry already handling this kind of thing in some new ways that are not widely known? What are the legal and practical implications for publishing vs performance when you can't tell the difference between authorship and performance?
Old 28th March 2019
Lives for gear

Everything is the same, there's the recording and the underlying composition.

In practice its a non-issue. For tracks without a vocal or clear compositional idea in the traditional sense, where the production is the song, it turns out there's zero interest in covers and reproductions. No one's ever gonna cover or reproduce this, they're just going to write their own original in the same style: YouTube

If someone were to do a new version of that though, it'd be treated the same as any cover.
Old 28th March 2019
Gear Maniac
calzone's Avatar

Let's say you compose an electronic track. Let's also say, you're the kind of author who knows his away around synths, sequencers, and DAWs intimately. You know exactly how you want your synth and beats to sound for a given composition you have in your head. You know what tempo you want to use.

You lay out the MIDI, apply various effects as needed, make your mix judgements, and eventually you're done writing… as well as "recording". Your "score" IS your "recording".

What prevents you from publishing this exact same track with more than one label? I don't see how copyright law could possibly prevent you from going to another label and giving them the exact same track. If you needed to be literal about things, you could easily open a new project in your DAW and reconstruct the entire thing all over again and have it come out sounding the same. Only the mastering might be different.

So if copyright law doesn't protect such a "recording", that would leave contract law as the only recourse.
Old 28th March 2019
Lives for gear

Two things.

1. Legal - The clause found in one form or another in every record contract: "Artist shall not re-record the Master during the Rights Period for any third party for exploitation purposes."

2. Social - The fact that no one would work with that guy again, that no label would sign an exact copy of an existing work to begin with. That move is a reputation killer for anyone who touches it.
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