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Old 01-13-2024, 09:24 AM
TGA TGA is offline
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Default Master Files Ownership & Rights

Hey guys,

Just curious… what are the standard ethics and rules regarding ownership of master Pro Tools session files?

If a band hires an audio engineer to mix a song, is it standard practice for said audio engineer to retain a copy of the master session file in his possession after the project is complete? Or is that session file considered property of the band and passed over to the band when the project is complete, without the engineer being allowed to retain a copy?

On one hand, the audio engineer might want this for his portfolio because it represents his work.

On th other hand, bands might not want engineers to have their master files bc you run the risk of them posting/leaking it, or extracting part of it and putting online to show for example how the drum sound was achieved, etc.

What are your thoughts? What is fair and ethical to both parties?
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Old 01-13-2024, 10:53 AM
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JFreak JFreak is offline
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

Mix is intellectual property of mixing engineer. If band buys those rights it is another story, but same goes for audio: if you are hired to mix, you should delete audio files from your project unless you pay the band for personal usafge rights.
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Old 01-13-2024, 11:49 AM
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

Its a discussion that needs to happen for any and all clients. Not only could the engineer do something with the files that they shouldn't, the artist/producer/label might possiblly take the mix session and use all the info(plugins, routing, automation moves, etc) to reverse engineer your mix on other music(with a cheaper mix engineer), taking the original mixer's intellectual property. It needs to be clear for all parties on what happens at the end of a project. My personal choice was to provide the final mix session just as it was as I figure the artist wants my "touch" enough to keep hiring me(just having my "bag of tricks" doesn't guarantee another person will get rich on my ideas, any more than I can mix like Billy Decker after dissecting one of his final mix sessions Of course, mixers like Greg Wells or CLA are probably a lot more possessive of their contribution(and probably should be).

Also I don't want clients to expect me to be the archive for all their music(unless they are going to pay for that service) so have that clear between all parties(I encourage clients to bring in their own hard drive for archival use).
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Last edited by albee1952; 01-14-2024 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 01-15-2024, 10:29 AM
TGA TGA is offline
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

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Originally Posted by JFreak View Post
Mix is intellectual property of mixing engineer. If band buys those rights it is another story, but same goes for audio: if you are hired to mix, you should delete audio files from your project unless you pay the band for personal usafge rights.
Janne thanks for the reply. So are you saying that the mix engineer has rights to the mix but not the audio? What does that look like exactly? Would his PT session then have all the faders and plugins in place, but no audio on the tracks? Or am I misunderstanding? Can you please clarify? Thx!
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Old 01-15-2024, 10:50 AM
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

Quote:
Originally Posted by TGA View Post
Janne thanks for the reply. So are you saying that the mix engineer has rights to the mix but not the audio? What does that look like exactly? Would his PT session then have all the faders and plugins in place, but no audio on the tracks? Or am I misunderstanding? Can you please clarify? Thx!
Deliverable of a mix is summed audio, not session file. If band wants to buy your IP (session file) there needs to be a price for it.
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Old 01-15-2024, 11:37 AM
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

Quote:
Originally Posted by TGA View Post
Hey guys,

Just curious… what are the standard ethics and rules regarding ownership of master Pro Tools session files?

If a band hires an audio engineer to mix a song, is it standard practice for said audio engineer to retain a copy of the master session file in his possession after the project is complete? Or is that session file considered property of the band and passed over to the band when the project is complete, without the engineer being allowed to retain a copy?

On one hand, the audio engineer might want this for his portfolio because it represents his work.

On th other hand, bands might not want engineers to have their master files bc you run the risk of them posting/leaking it, or extracting part of it and putting online to show for example how the drum sound was achieved, etc.

What are your thoughts? What is fair and ethical to both parties?
And to add to what has been said One needs to clarify the word Master

So sounds like what you are actually talking about is the mix session files, yes ?

BECAUSE
The word "Master" in the US is usually meant to designate the Audio Mater file ----or as Janne said the summed audio file -- Which in an independent for hire situation (no Label involved) I believe unless otherwise pre stipulated in a mix contract,,, is considered to belong to the Artist/Band. But the session files are the property of the mix engineer..

And further it is not really a matter of "ethics" or "rules" it is a matter of legal ownership and or what is stipulated in any mixing contract (which should be written) Were any smart business minded mix engineer should have a basic written contract to work from and then definitely have a discussion about ownership and any changes and write them in --BEFORE-- starting the project ..
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Last edited by K Roche; 01-15-2024 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 01-17-2024, 03:59 PM
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nednednerb nednednerb is offline
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Default Re: Master Files Ownership & Rights

To carry on from K Roche's addition, I have a roundtrip.

"Ethics" or how we wish ourselves to act to put it simply, might be determined by much larger, broader, deeper, social, cultural, scientific, biological, economic, or religious considerations. Ethics and deciding on the basic principles is one thing and requires great cooperation.

"Rules" or laws for behavior and customs for interactions, perhaps ought to follow and not conflict with the ethical paradigms of the group/society/UN/AES etc. Deciding on rules helps mitigate things like how to make some transactions.

In fact, you cannot just say "all you have to do is follow the rules, these considerations are beyond what is necessary" but then I point to every single big court case in music, film, or literature rights that determines new rules.

Ethics and rules keep evolving. Hence, a general principle applies in daily business, which is outlined above clearly:

If in good faith you are complying with regional or international broadcasting laws, then the ethical thing to do is make fair rules and comply with with them after that instead of wiggle, such as for a selfish benefit.

This indeed is why contracts can be so very long, because some parties might have more or less to lose, if the contract is more or less significant or risky. Also, specifying the rules in advance, and getting a lawyer to check that it does comply with legal status quo can assure you that any complaints will be covered and not have to get messy in any court case.

Different situations and personal or business relationships will govern the terms and nature of any engineering.

Conclusion:

Being transparent so everyone understands what will happen in the future according to plan and doing fair business in good faith, that's what's ethical. After the foundation is covered, make up any other rules and stick to your word. That's should cover getting things done.
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