Game Music, Miscellaneous

Community Question: What Can Composers Do When Protecting Their Work?

June 28, 2017 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Community Question: What Can Composers Do When Protecting Their Work?on Twitter


Here at OSV, we’ve had more than a few discussions about the power that video game composers have or don’t have when it comes to the use and distribution of their work, as well as being fairly compensated for their craft. The usual topic touched upon is the unfairness that composers and musicians have to face when attempting to be hired in terms of being fairly paid for their work, with often the idea that “exposure” should be compensation enough. The discussions were meant to highlight how much work video game composers and musicians of all calibers should be fairly compensated for their hard work and creative efforts when composing music for any video game, from small mobile titles to AAA games.

The question we haven’t touched on is how far composers should go with regards to protecting their own works from unfair use. Recent issues regarding Starr Mazer DSP composer Alex Mauer and her disputes with developers Imagos (Whose soundtrack we’ve reported on before.) bring to light the importance of having strong contracts between game composers and game developers as well as good communication between parties especially when it comes to compensation, as too often things can go wrong.

When things do go wrong, then it becomes a matter of how a composers should go about protecting their work. In Alex Mauer’s case, she used social media and DMCA takedown notices to attempt to abolish what she perceived was her work being unfairly distributed after she accused the devs of insufficient compensation. Imagos has come out with statements documenting their agreements and communications with Mauer with regards to her composing for Starr Mazer DSP that support their following the contract both parties agreed upon and proposed solutions, though Mauer contests this. Regardless of where you stand on the situation, it highlights an facet of creative license and content authority that does affect how video game composing and musicians function with developers with regard to who controls what and what extent a composer can and should go to in order to protect their work. DMCA issues, while they can protector content creators from having their work unfairly stolen, can obviously also be abused. Certainly we don’t ever want to see a composer being treated unfairly or being cheated out of compensation, but what happens if the pendulum swings the other way? What rights and responsibilities do the content creators have, and can they take protection of their work too far to the point of doing more harm than good?

My question is to all the musicians and game composers out there who have any experience or opinion on the matter. What are your thoughts with regards to the protection of your own work? What provisions do you put in your contracts about compensation? What advice do you have to other contract composers with regards to content protection? We’d like to hear your thoughts and discuss how to prevent further issues like the aforementioned from happening in the future to the benefit of composers and the community.

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