Hugh Palmer

MELBOURNE SOUND RECORDIST & AUDIO ENGINEER

Professional Sound Recordist based in Melbourne, Australia.

Offering a range of audio related services including Sound Recording, Sound Design, Music Recording and Audio Restoration.

The Legality of a recording

Lately I have been pondering a question that may not strike our minds too often while we pull that massive drum sound... Who owns the rights to this recording? The fact is that this is a complicated issue (who knew law was complex?!) but nonetheless I will attempt to decipher this issue so as to make it vaguely more approachable for you - and myself.

Copyright law in Australia is based upon a 1968 Commonwealth Act, including several amendments under this act. Many artistic and inventive things are covered under these acts but what we need to focus on specifically is: Musical Works & Sound Recording Subject Matter Other Than Works. These are two separate and distinct parts of this Act and both protect different parties rights in different ways.

Musical works belong to the writer of that work. If you can logically and reasonably argue that you have had a part to play in the writing of a musical piece, then you may have a claim to the rights of that song under Australian Law. That is provided that the work was published or made in Australia or a country on a list of complying countries (for those of you keeping up this does not include countries such as China and Iraq). But then you have to take the lyrics of a piece into account, this is covered under a separate literary copyright. 

On top of the copyright for works there is a separate amendment to the act which covers "Subject Matter Other Than Works". This, once again covers a large range of subjects but of a particular interest to us is sound recordings. This roughly defined as the aggregates of sound within a record and there are all manner of situations in which different people are granted the copyright under different scenarios. The most important thing to take note of here is that the Copyright Act actually allows you to come to mutual agreements as to who owns a particular recording. 

So write out agreements. This is the only and most important thing I am writing about. Make sure that whenever you make a recording that all parties are aware of who owns what and that this is all documented in writing. Otherwise all manner of troubles can come out of it. If you are sampling any recognisable piece of music, even if you rip it apart, stretch it and reverse it, if it  can be traced in any way back to the original you can be in deep, expensive poo.

So write your agreements and pay session musicians and enjoy all that royalty money that comes.