When recording songs, who owns the recordings and the elements within each recording?

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When recording songs, who owns the recordings and the elements within each recording?

I’m a music producer who has been working with artists to create a demo. All of my work is not copywritten and the artists’ work isn’t copywritten as well. The artists that I’ve been working with own a studio, where we’ve been recording their vocals over my tracks. I have all of the files associated with my instrumentals, so I can prove that I’m the creator. There’s been a recent rift in our plans and relationship and I was wondering if I still own all of my rights to my work. The artists claim that “whenever you record, all of the projects (including the instrumentals) belong to the studio”. Who owns the vocals? Who owns the track?

Asked on July 19, 2011 under Business Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you were hired to do work, including creative work, belongs to the person or business which hired you, unless there is an agreement specifically to the contrary. That is, work done as an employee always belongs to the employer absent an agreement; and work done as an independent contractor pursuant to a contract, agreement, etc. (even an oral or verbal one) is "work for  hire," which belongs to the one who commissioned the work and hired you. Who created the work is irrelevant in this context. So if you were hired by the artists or the studio to do the work, the intellectual property--the work, that is--belongs to them. In the future, you can try to set out otherwise in your contact, if the person(s) hiring you will agree to let you retain rights.


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