Determination of Ownership of Sound Recordings

Sound recordings, composed of a series of sounds fixed in any medium of expression by any mechanical device or equipment, are protected under the Copyright Act in Taiwan. 

In a dispute involving ownership of copyright in re-recordings of a number of published songs, the Taipei District Court and the Intellectual Property Court held differing views. 

The Taipei District Court was of the opinion that the expression of originality in a sound recording is not limited to the musicality of the composition of the songs and should include the acoustic quality of the songs as conveyed through speakers. The court opined that a completed sound recording could be given a different style through post production. In addition to the styles and instrumental parts of the songs, the court believed that acoustic quality of the songs was a crucial factor in determining ownership of the re-recordings, i.e., if a song could be given a different acoustic quality through use of recording equipment, the person responsible for the re-recording should be entitled to claim copyright in the re-recorded songs. 

The Intellectual Property Court (IP Court) held a different view. It was of the opinion that weight should primarily be placed on whose creativity was expressed in the sound recordings. According to the IP Court, the person responsible for determining the style and rendition of a song, the kind of musical instruments used, the performer of the song, etc., imbued the song with creative ideas to be communicated to the public. Therefore, the owner of the copyright in the song should be the person responsible for determining the style and content of the song. The court particularly stressed that use of hardware merely aided in the process of fixing sounds in a medium, and that the operator of such hardware did not put in any creative ideas. The court further reasoned that the post production process was to enhance the sound quality of the sound recordings and did not change the style or content of the songs of the original sound recording (i.e., the master tape); therefore, the person responsible for post production of the songs should not be entitled to claim copyright in the re-recorded songs . In brief, in the determination of ownership of a sound recording, the question is whose creative idea or spirit was manifested in the overall style and content of the sound recordings, not who was responsible for the mere change of the acoustic quality.

The above contents are intended as general discussion of the subject matter only and shall not be deemed as legal advice to any particular case or issue.