Friday, May 20, 2005

more on ownership

This is interesting.. I've written a bit before (in my academic life as well) about the way the whole concept of dubmusic and the engineer as creator (and the mixing board as a creative tool) confounds concepts of ownership. When people buy a Scientist album, or a Lee "Scratch" Perry album, it's because of his role as producer, no? dub artists are engineers, wizards of the mixing board (are there any female dub producers?)

so in that way why isn't the engineer like an author? what is the engineer entitled to? Notice that Greensleeves don't say why they are entitled to own the copyrights, they simply mock the idea that an engineer could be the owner. NObody's talking about the musicians who played the instruments, or the authors of the tunes.. where are they? why aren't any of them the owner?

This silence also implies that there is something more natural about a record label being the copyright owner --more natural than the engineer being the owner.

But of course there's nothing natural about it at all - it's all negotiation, and despite what many economists like to assume, such negotiation, such bargaining, is never free.

From the Gleaner
"Hopeton Browne, known in the business as the 'Scientist', lost his bid after an approximate two-year fight in U.S. courts. Browne had challenged Greensleeves for the recording and composition copyrights of five tracks which he worked on for the video game, 'Grand Theft Auto 3.'

"A release from Greensleeves stated that the tracks come from the album Scientist Rids The World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires, which was released in 1981, and which is now available as part of the Greensleeves Reggae Classics series.

"The tracks were produced by the renowned Henry 'Junjo' Laws, and had been reportedly licensed by him to Greensleeves. All five tracks, Dance Of The Vampires, The Mummy's Shroud, The Corpse Rises, Your Teeth In My Neck, and Plague Of Zombies, were mixed at King Tubby's Studios back then.

"Both Lawes and King Tubby are deceased, so that meant that Browne's claims could not be validated.

"According to Greensleeves Records, the court found that Browne was not the owner of either the recording or composition copyrights. Greensleeves' Managing Director, Chris Sedgwick, claimed that the company went to trial because Browne's claims were unreasonable.

"Basically, Scientist was claiming to own copyrights in songs and recordings as a result of being the mixing engineer. Although we always felt these claims were ridiculous, we had to defend ourselves all the way to trial and are delighted to have got the right result," he said in a release."

and ps. stupid new york courts - why are they never on the sensible side of these copyright claims?


  1. this is interesting to me... especially because in my band 'the manhattan gimp project', the recording engineer is a full member of the band. eventually he also acted as a producer at times as well dropped samples and played modular analog synths... but it started with him recording all of our improvisations [as well as improvising with the effects and processing he would put on the instrumentations] and grew from there. his recordings have a specific sound... the way he mics, his house [that he can turn into a multiroom recording studio], his pre amps, his mixing- all of it contributed to the reason we sound the way we do... even before all the extra instruments he would also play.

    for engineering legends such as the ones you mentioned, when people pick up these older records... often times it will be for the engineer or producer as much [if not more] than for the featured artist.

  2. Female dub producers... hmm. Half of UK Digidub crew Alpha & Omega is about all I can come up with off the top of my head!