I am a sound designer for theater and have a question about credit/compensation for past work. I designed sound for a production at a regional theater, and this year a sequel is being mounted. I got a chance to see the sequel and recognized aspects of my design - either my original samples were being used or, more likely, close approximations.

Now, obviously if I were talking about wind and car doors slamming there would be no argument. But there are complicated and sort of abstract multiple part cues that I created with the director last year, and that he has instructed a different sound designer how to reproduce (I couldn't work on the sequel for logistical reasons).

Am I entitled to credit or compensation? If this were a pure remount the answer would be definitely Yes, but what about a sequel in the same world?

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    First and foremost: What were the details of the contract you signed (or made them sign)? – Stavrosound Sep 27 '13 at 23:00
  • What's a "Sound Designer" for theater? I don't understand that? Like a live foley artist? – Stephen Saldanha Sep 27 '13 at 23:28
  • I design the sound system for reinforcement, create all sound effects as required by the specific production or spectacle, from literally wind in the background to the crazy sounds of a spell being cast or a dragon talking or a spaceship being blown to smithereens above the audience....I don't think the contract has anything useful in it but I have a long working relationship with these people. I just got an email where the guy said he would credit me but didn't know an appropriate title. I just want to be able to articulate the principle, is this covered by copyright law for example? – he_artburns Sep 27 '13 at 23:47
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    When I do sound design for theatre, I try to make sure that my contract stipulates that I retain the copyright to my design, and that if they're going to use it again, a remount fee must be negotiated. This remount fee is generally something less than the original design fee. If your contract doesn't address that, I'm not sure whether the assumption is that you created the work for hire and gave up your copyright, or if you retain it. My instinct is that you automatically retain it unless you specifically assign it away to someone else, but I'm no lawyer. – Joe Griffin Sep 28 '13 at 21:56

Am I entitled to credit or compensation?

If you have copyright for these particular sounds, then using the sounds without your permission is technically a copyright infringement. However, whether you want to go court is another topic, more likely the infringement that bothers you can be solved simply by negotiating.

If you've signed a contract where you've transferred the rights to the sounds to another person or a company or e.g. worked on a contract that states that what you produce belongs to your employer, then (unless the contract had restricted use cases for what you produce, e.g. that it's for a particular play only) you don't have rights to the sounds, because you've given them away.

Also, there's no sort of automatic compensation for copyright infringements, it's either negotiated or solved in the court.

  • Thanks man. The contract does say I retain ownership, and it discusses remounts. Thanks to you guys, I actually looked it up...Now the only question I have in mind is what kind of credit I should be receiving given that it's a sequel, not a remount. so it's now a mix of my design and the new guy's. I hate to walk into a negotiation without knowing exactly what I'm asking for. – he_artburns Sep 29 '13 at 1:50

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