Dear all,

Answers to another question of mine brought up this question I have:

What security precautions do you take when working with other clients?


You get hired to do sound design for a commercial with another company than your own (most freelance designers for example).

Would you still use your best sound effects you've got? Custom ones that you have made and recorded on your own at great expense? Like a "Mount Everest Ambience" or a "Lion Chasing Me, I risked my life for this lion roar but it sounds awesome because the mic was inside his mouth" effect?

Once you turn over your effects to whatever mix room to be mixed, does that mean they can take your effects and use them on another project without your consent? It would be pretty easy to do and I'd be afraid of my hard-won sound effects being used on different projects than my own by other designers - especially since I put a lot of work into recording those effects.

How does this work? Would you just use random stock effects you wouldn't mind losing?

And when you bring your harddrives/dongles to work on a stage, what security measures do you take to ensure your effects libraries and dongles will not get stolen?

I've never worked with another company or on another stage with my own personal gear like dongles and hard drives with my personal libraries, but I'm sure it's come up with some of you pros -

What do you do?

4 Answers 4


Write a contract. It's worth it to have an entertainment lawyer write a stock contract for you. In it, you'll want to make sure you retain the rights to reuse any sound effects that you create on the project, and also make sure you specify that you have the right to use any sound effect you provide, but THEY do not have the right to use them on any project but this one. If you're really jealous of your property, you can specify that no sound effect you create be changed more than 15% or something like that. Excessive? Absolutely. But the fact that you put it in writing at least shows you care.

Obviously this is all on the honor system unless you find out. I really only care about keeping the rights to reuse sound effects and have had directors fight me on that... like using some random footstep in another project will somehow damage the originality of their work :)


I'm not a freelancer, but if I were I don't think I'd run into many situations where I'd be holding back as a sound designer. Most stuff gets layered and manipulated to death anyway, so as long as you're not handing the raw pt sessions over I don't think there's much to worry about.

People will take what people will take, but sound design is an art that must generally be specifically applied to each project. People that steal sounds aren't going to be much competition in that realm.


The only reasonable thing you can do is put a copyright notice read me in several locations where your sound effects files are located and also use meta-tags or sound file information tags to write your notice of copyright.

Also provide licensing information, such as how a person can contact you should they wish to license the sound effects for a reasonable fee. Most people are honest and if given the opportunity to license sound effects will do so.

The threat of a sound effects copyright owner suing a production company and corporate client over a small license fee is not worth the risk to working professionals and re-recording mix facilities. Would you hire someone that stole copyrights and synchronized them into your production, putting your production and investment at risk? Not likely.

Rob Nokes www.sounddogs.com


I completely agree with the above. What can also be done from a very literal stand point is to rename specific files in your edit to basic names like Audio 01, etc. and even go so far as to compact your edits with super short handles (NOTE: Compacting should only be done to a saved out copy of your session).

If you're using multiple elements, even comp them down to a singe track to marry them together both for ease on the mixer and protecting your work. This is a practice I do all the time because the mix stages prefer leaner and organized FX sessions - There was mention in a Soundworks video that even Transformers utilizes this paradigm of comp'd edits. For instance, a 30-track flamethrower design I did on a show was comped down to 6 tracks before delivery to the stage (flame shoots, flame rips, etc). This could be one way to make your prized source elements virtually unusable outside of the edit. However, I suggest caution be taken with this process so as to not over-comp the edits or comp elements together which should stay separate... hence my 6-track comp down versus a comp to 1 track. It protects your elements, gives the stage your intention, yet provides them the flexibility to do their job.

Alas, it does come down to exactly what VCProd stated - the honor system.

My belief is that yes, protecting of your own work is important and there are appropriate steps to take, yet life is way too short to be overly stressed about it in the edit.

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