Hey, That's me on that CD - Pay me!
May 25, 2012 12:27 PM   Subscribe

What are my rights when someone uses a performance in which I was a significant participant on a commercial CD? I don't recall signing anything that assigned my rights as a performer, nor was I asked permission for its use nor even notified of its release. I have yet to ascertain whether I'm credited on the CD at all. I know YANAL, but surely this sort of thing has come up for someone before. How did you handle it?
posted by DandyRandy to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by 'significant participant'? What did you do?
posted by Jairus at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: I was one of a dozen voices in a small classical music ensemble. They've compiled a CD of past live performances that is being sold on its website - I was in the group for its premier concert.
posted by DandyRandy at 12:31 PM on May 25, 2012

Did you have to sign any waivers at all? For example waivers pertaining to recording the performance (in any capacity), image releases, etc? Did you maybe sign any legal red tape when you joined the ensemble? It was probably in there.

I don't think I've ever participated in anything in a creative capacity where I didn't have to sign paperwork consenting to being recorded in some way and having said recordings disseminated to the public. Hell, I work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry and I'm fairly sure that my standard HR paperwork covers the possibility that my likeness could be used in some way on camera.

It's also possible that, when you entered the recording facility or performance space, there was a sign posted up saying something of the effect of: "by entering this space you consent to being recorded and for your image to be used in X, Y, and Z capacities universally and in perpetuity." That's usually more of an audience participation sort of thing, but it would apply to anyone in the space.
posted by Sara C. at 1:27 PM on May 25, 2012

If you never granted permission to make and use a recording of your performance, they don't have the right to use it. This type of grant doesn't need to be in writing, though.
posted by benbenson at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, based on your title: just because they used a recording you participated in doesn't mean they necessarily need to pay you. They may only need to clarify your consent. There's a strong chance that none of the participants were compensated.
posted by Sara C. at 2:46 PM on May 25, 2012

So. People have thrown out some guesses in this thread (and will throw out more), some of which don't apply. You can get correct info by talking to someone from Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

But I will also suggest you consider this in practical terms. In the extremely small-world context of classical music, is the amount of money you might squeeze out of this release (a small fraction of a probably VERY small amount of profit) worth the effort and the possible antagonizing of the group's director / whoever's put out the release?

I can understand and respect your wanting to pursue this on principle, but consider taking care to communicate politely and respectfully if you do decide to pursuing it is worth it at all. I guarantee conductors talk with each other about people who are perceived to be a problem.
posted by lorimer at 4:19 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is not legal advice, it's just advice: You might first consider what it is that you want. Have you communicated with the others who were a part of the music ensemble? You would each be entitled to attribution, at the least, and compensation if the recording sells well, depending upon who owns the copyright on the recording. Who owns the copyright? Did anyone register it? Who recorded the performance? Were you a named music group? If so, you would likely own the copyright jointly, as a creative group. If you were hired to sing, it's likely that the folks who hired you own it. There are a number of possibilities...

If you just want your work (and talent) to be acknowledged and credited, then contact the person or group that issued the CD and ask for your name to be included in the credits. If you're feeling kind of litigious, find out who is credited with creating the recording and whether they registered the copyright. If the CD is making money, there is no reason why you should not get some of it. If the CD is not making any money, then honor the arts by letting your work exist out there, and take the steps necessary so the people who hear it know that it's your voice (and the others in the group) that they're listening to.
posted by Ventre Mou at 4:32 PM on May 25, 2012

Knowing what you want is important. My question would be this: If they were releasing mp3's of the music for free, would that upset you? I would guess that they aren't selling many copies of that CD, but as far as promotion goes, it makes the group look better if they have something for sale, and these are the types of things that can make a group appear more professional. I know that when I go to a concert and see a merch table with lots of stuff on it (other than buttons and stickers), it gives me the impression that the group is serious about their music, and not just playing a few tunes for fun. The director of your group may be trying to promote the group with items such as this, even though it is unlikely they will sell many.

So, if you don't want your voice used in any capacity whatsoever, than I would talk to a lawyer to get some real legal advice, but if you ever signed anything whatsoever when part of the group, it may have had a clause that covered this, so you'll want to be very sure you didn't before paying someone to help you out.

If it were me, I would be flattered that someone thought a performance I was involved with was worthy of selling.

All of this goes out the window if you are talking about a professional group where the members are getting paid to be a part of it, though. If that is the case, than you should certainly be compensated for any recordings you were a part of.
posted by markblasco at 8:00 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, here's a little more light: I am indeed credited for the performances in which I participated, I suppose that's good enough.

My headline was a lame attempt at a clever MF title to induce some eyeball coverage of my question. I really am not looking for a payday, but maybe a copy of the CD would be reasonable.

Thanks to all who contributed to the thread.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:58 AM on May 29, 2012

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