Hey folks, I've read a number of great posts here regarding library sfx usage and legal issues (such as this one, but wanted to focus on an aspect that hasn't come up so far in my readings.
I find on a number of freelance projects, the client wants some standard contract signed to some effect with a "work-for-hire" type clause in it - essentially stating any design work you do and audio materials you provide will be owned by them. Obviously this is something I avoid in general, unless the price is right, but the big question is how does use of library sfx in your work (either in whole or in part) effect one's ability to even officially sign something like this?
My typical response to clients in these situations is to try to explain to them that the nature of the work and source material prevents a "work-for-hire" agreement from being valid, being that I don't actually "own" the audio source material and therefore cannot transfer ownership to them even if I wanted to. This usually confuses and/or frustrates them, as they're typically used to dealing with visual artists or developers that aren't as library-centric, or worse other sound designers in the past who haven't made a fuss about this issue and probably signed off "ownership" of audio files consisting of some library sfx material.
My understanding is that even if a single snippet of library material is used in a sound/soundscape, that audio technically becomes an extension of the library sound and the library EULA applies. Obviously the way it is designed/utilized may be original and "your own", but you don't have the rights to do anything with that sound other than use it in a synced work, and are certainly not able to grant someone else (the client) the rights to use it as they please - to me that would clearly violate the repackaging/redistribution clause pretty much found in every sfx library EULA.
The other part of this issue is that the work-for-hire bit isn't simply to protect the client's exclusivity of the design materials, which is much more reasonable/realistic, but it's also to allow them to modify and reuse the provided material as they see fit in this/other/future projects. This perhaps isn't as big an issue in film/video projects where the deliverable is typically a fully synced soundscape or individual stems at the most, but in gaming projects with more individualized assets it presents a much larger concern.
I've turned down these projects in the past, and in some cases I've had clients willing to add a contract clause to the effect of "anything we can't own is properly licensed for use, but everything else we do own". Of course this just widens the potential for confusion and misuse in my opinion and I still try to avoid it entirely where possible.
So what do you all do when something like this comes up? Do you agree that under a work-for-hire contract you would be unable to utilize any library sourced audio material? Am I being overzealous in my interpretation? Anyone have any standard clauses or client disclaimers of their own that have proven effective and would be willing to share? Any good reading/articles out there that you point clients to in an effort to raise awareness and clarify the issues?