Arias music production

Ethics and Copyright

This scenario has been provided by School of Creative Media by Dr Fiona Peterson, Simon Embury, Rowan Humphrey, Dr Kipps Horn, John Phillips and Stephen Skok. The discussion response to the scenario has been provided by Anne Lennox. They are fictitious but are realistic situations for some students and staff.

Jim and Sandra were students in the Diploma of Music Industry. In 2005 they worked on a remix project with their teacher, Bob. The project was a major assessment task that involved taking original material recorded professionally by Bob’s band, and remixing the material into new tracks. When it came to choosing remixed tracks for a new album, the band (including Bob) selected two remixes produced by Bob’s students.

In 2007 the CD was released for sale and was nominated for an ARIA award.


Jim and Sandra first need to discuss with Bob as to whether Bob and his band are currently under any recording contracts with any music label that might restrict the use of the original material as part of the remix project. If Bob’s band is signed by a music label the contract in place will detail the re-use rights on the musical works created by Bob’s band. In signing the music contract Bob may have signed over certain exclusive rights of copyright that would restrict the original musical works from being used in the remix project.

In the event that Bob is not signed with a music label copyright in the musical works will be owned by Bob and the band members jointly. Therefore, the underlying original works can be used as part of the remix project. In the event the Band has not undertaken a contract of sorts between the band members each band member would be considered equal and thus require equal distribution of royalties and attribution in the musical works created.

Jim and Sandra also need to be aware that the sound engineer or the maker of the sound recording of the musical works is the first owner of copyright in the recording of the musical work in the absence of a formal contract. If the original musical works were recorded in a professional studio then the professional studio may well own the copyright in the sound recording. If the sound engineer is working under an employee contract then the employee will own copyright in the sound recording. Bob will need to ensure that as part of the recording process within the professional studio he has undertaken a contract to ensure the copyright in the recording of the original musical works rests with Bob and the band if the sound recording that is to be used was made at a professional studio and recorded by a sound engineer.

Once ownership rights in the original musical works has been established, Bob and the band need to ensure that they have obtain the consent of the students before the remixed versions of the musical works can be commercialised and offered for sale.

In the remix version an additional layer of copyright has been added to the original recordings, the first layer being the original music and the additional layer being the remix. The students will obtain exclusive rights of ownership in the remix version, but not own any rights in the underlying original musical work. Ideally for a remix to be created a licence needs to be obtained from the copyright holder of the underlying musical work to be remixed. In this instance Bob has provided the licence to the students, yet, Bob now needs to obtain the students permission to commercialise the remix version of the original music.

The students also need to be attributed as the creators of the remix version of the work. In the event Bob has failed to secure a licence or agreement with the students to commercialise the sound recording, Bob must undertake to ensure the students are provided with an agreement that details the commercial arrangements that Bob has entered into with the music publisher/label. The agreement must be in writing and provide an understanding of the commercial arrangements in place with the music label/publisher.