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Meeting held Thursday, November 8th, 2012 at Opus 4 Studios

AES PNW Section Meeting Report
Copyright Termination Rights
with Michael P Matesky II
Christensen, O'Connor, Johnson, Kindness

Audio recordings of the meeting: Part 1 (47Mb mp3) 

Part 2 (51Mb mp3) 

Door Prize Drawing (7Mb mp3) 

The powerpoint deck and its content are Copyright 2012 by Michael P. Matesky II. All rights reserved. Permission granted for your own private use. Powerpoint Deck
PowerPoint Deck 
(L-R): Section Chair Dave Tosti-Lane, Michael Matesky II, Mike Matesky, Opus 4 Studios

Photo by Gary Louie

The PNW Section November meeting was on copyright law as it pertains to sound recordings, specifically termination rights, a part of U.S. copyright law which can allow artists to reclaim rights previously assigned 35 years ago. However, as THE law often goes, it may not be completely clear or simple. The speaker was Michael Matesky II, an attorney with the Seattle law firm of Christensen, O'Connor, Johnson, Kindness. The meeting was held at Dr. Michael Matesky's Opus 4 Studios in Bothell, WA. 10 AES members and 7 non members attended.

Mike began by playing excerpts of Ray Charles and The Village People, noting that both songs were now under ownership dispute. He then reviewed copyright basics and rights conveyed.

Musical pieces have two copyrights, the composition and the recording. A copyright exists when fixed in a tangible medium (like a CD), and the ownership vests in the "author," except for joint works and works made for hire. This is perhaps the big gotcha for reclaiming a copyright - an author can't do it if it was a work for hire, which is frequently a matter of dispute and often a legal gray area.

With works for hire, the creator could be an employee, creating a work as part of their employment, or an independent contractor, whose work is commissioned for one of 9 very specific categories and has a written work for hire agreement. Those 9 categories do not SPECIFICALLY include sound recordings, but the U.S. Congress says this does not necessarily mean sound recordings can't be a work for hire.

The nine work for hire categories are:

  1. a contribution to a collective work
  2. part of a motionpicture or other AV work
  3. a translation
  4. a supplementary work
  5. a compilation
  6. an instructional text
  7. a test
  8. answer material for a test
  9. an atlas
Thus, to reclaim a copyright under termination rights, it can't be a work for hire, and it could be major work and legal wrangling to prove so. The starting date is FOR works CREATED SINCE Jan 1, 1978. There's 5 year window after 35 years, with 2-10 years advance notice given to the current copyright holder.

After a break, some doorprizes (AES Convention swag) were given courtesy of Dr. Matesky/Opus 4 Studios.

Resuming after the break, Mike cited many examples of case law regarding whether sound recordings ARE works for hire, questions on how sound only recordings may not be protectable as one of the 9 categories of works for hire, and other case of termination rights.

He finished with things to consider in future contracts, whether commissioning or working.

Reported by Gary Louie, PNW Section Secretary

Last modified 01/20/2013 1:25:43.