Unknown performer, known recorder

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You were specifically taking about crediting recordings to David Lewiston instead of [unknown]. Using Peter Gabriel as an illustration why this makes sense. To me this is extremely weird analogy.

I am not opposed to crediting the project (i.e. the release) to David Lewiston.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to - can you elaborate? If the musicians are known, I would expect to see them credited as the recording artist.

MB guidelines defer to “artist intent”. That intent is usually reasonably clear in the case of commercial recordings, but with field recordings that is often not the case.

First statement: People like Irv Teibel, Francisco López, Chris Watson are considered the appropriate artist for their field recordings, which I don’t disagree with. In this case, they are considered involved with the recording. It is pretty much impossible that these performers of widely distributed Nonesuch Explorer Series recordings are going to ever be identified, which you’ve agreed on (“even if the emphasis at this date has to be on “potentially””).

If someone pointing a microphone at rain is an acceptable artist (there is an equivalent [nature recordings] SPA for completely uncredited recordings), I don’t see how someone pointing a microphone at a person or a group of people who is/are not identified is different. You can say that it is “taking credit for someone’s work”, but it doesn’t matter since the artist credit is still not meant to be an objective reflection of the people involved, hence my comments about a double standard.

The difference is that in the first case, there is no work of art until it is recorded; the act of recording (and processing, editing, etc.) literally creates the art. In the latter, there is an existing work of art in the form of the performance being documented. In very rough analogy, it’s the difference between an Ansel Adams photograph and my snapshot of the Mona Lisa.


That is a terrible analogy, sorry. In both cases, the recordist legally owns the copyright of his recordings due to originality, similar to if he would take a photography. Your photo of the Mona Lisa is not considered original as it is an reproduction, see Threshold of originality#Reproductions (Wikipedia).

When a photo of the Taj Mahal is attributed to a photographer, nobody is arguing that he shouldn’t be credited because “it’s claiming someone’s else work, he isn’t the responsible architect, he just pointed a camera at a building.” This analogy makes no sense and is effectively a counterargument against itself.

I see worrying similarities between a field recordist being credited as the release or track artist in the place of the performers and Bill being credited as the release or track artist for his torrent-distributed “My Favourites Hits from the 70s” which features Bill’s favourites amongst the minor disco tracks of 1970-1979. In each case the performers are not having their rights as artists respected.
However I think a middle ground, which has the releases credited to the field recordist and annotations acknowledging that the artistic rights of the performers, to be so identified, have not been respected by the labels involved, and not by MB, balances this ethical issue.

  1. Bill is not involved in the recording of these tracks. He has done nothing on them.
  2. These are previously commercially released tracks with a discoverable identity. The identity of a field recorded, anonymously credited didgeridoo player from a LP on 1953 where everyone involved in producing the album is deceased is blatantly different.

This is also a nonsensical comparison, sorry.

See Tribal Music of Australia for an example, but I think ethical issue is the wrong way to think about it since the artist field is not always a representation of performance.

I find your approach non-colleagial.

To editors who are interested in progressing understanding of the rights of performer artists to be identified as the performer and how MB can fulfil its ethical responsibilities when it is faced with promolgating a pre-existing denial of the artist’s right: While acting ethically is more demanding than acting non-ethically, the social credibility of groups and individuals who act without sufficient regard to ethics often suffers.
eg A certain large religious organisation.

MB has no ethical burden based on what record labels do or not do. Artist rights or acting ethically is not the focus for the MB database, the Data Removal Policy is a blatantly clear example of this.

Furthermore, if you can provide credible sources for the artist’s right being “denied”, you can submit an edit changing the field recordist in the artist field to the performing artist and add an annotation mentioning that the release does not credit the performer on track X.

MB is not some kind of judge, jury and executioner. This approach is a red herring.

The idea that Musicbrainz is some sort of ethics-free zone is a curious one - one that I’m sure important participants, partners and donors would not support.

Any project that wants to have the respect and co-operation of artists will want to be seen to be respecting the rights of artists.

To do otherwise would damage the project’s reputation and perceived artist friendliness and so negatively affect the project’s viability.

Your suggested remedy for the case where MB is forced to promulgate the denial of a performer’s right to be identified is in line with what I included in my first comment on this thread.
… annotations acknowledging that the artistic rights of the performers, to be so identified, have not been respected by the labels involved, and not by MB …
I am gladded to see that we have found agreement.

MB’s GDPR policy: https://metabrainz.org/gdpr

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International copyright law needs to be changed for these claims of “artistic rights” to be objectively backed up. MB is an extension of how the record industry works.

There is precedent to follow in how libraries list their big collections of field recordings/collected folklore works in general and how the copyright system currently works, which is not subjective.

The argument that it’s unethical to the unknown performing artists to have a recordist credited in an abstract artist data field for maintenance of information, with full performance context provided by data relationships is subjective.

I would not dismiss these claims if you can provide some kind of reference to a library/information authority doing something equivalent to this. I cannot maintain editor impartiality by arguing right and wrong and thus I will politely refrain from doing it.

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Yes, ethics are inherently subjective.

My view is not, “that it’s unethical to the unknown performing artists to have a recordist credited in an abstract artist data field for maintenance of information, with full performance context provided by data relationships”.

Rather my view is that it would be ethical to acknowledge that the rights of the performing artist have been denied by past actions, over which MB has no control, and that MB invites the correction of this wrong if the necessary information is available. This would probably be better communicated as a general statement of MusicBrainz policy rather than being repeated for each instance of denial of artists’ rights.

The section Moral Rights in http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/martin/art_law/image_rights.htm presents "
France recognizes four moral rights:

  • … right of disclosure;*
  • … right to correct or withdraw works previously disclosed to the public;*
  • … right of attribution, which includes*
    right against misattribution,*
    right against nonattribution,*
    right to publish anonymously or pseudonymously,*
    right to void a promise to publish anonymously or pseudonymously; *
  • and the droit au respect de l’oeuvre, literally “the right to respect of the work,” usually translated as the right of integrity.*

Similarly in Australia there is the Moral Rights Amendment to the Copyright Act.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia has released an Arts Law information sheet on Moral Rights.

With it, in France and Australia, being the law of the land, we can be confident that French and Australian libraries are taking steps to abide.


Sorry for late response, I didn’t see it until now.

“Moral rights” in copyright is a loosely defined term which varies significantly from jurisdiction. Either way, in some jurisdictions, there is indeed a right, but if the right isn’t claimed, there’s nothing libraries can do.

My suggestion is still:

  1. If the performer can be reliably sourced, we should use it as the artist credit.
  2. If the performer cannot be reliably sourced, we should use the recordist as the artist credit. To note that there is a performer, but the identity is unknown, it can be linked to [unknown] with the appropriate performance relationship. If the release gives a specific credit for an unknown performer, it should be entered as a name variation (see Tribal Music of Australia for an example).
  3. If neither can be reliably sourced, [unknown] can be used.

This provides context in the artist field, as well as noting that the performer is uncredited. I agree that the site policy should be clearer when it comes to the use of [unknown] and how to handle unidentified/uncredited artists.

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Whilst there is much in your post I agree with, I can’t understand why libraries would suddenly become disabled if a right is not claimed.
The libraries’ moral responsibilities and agency do not seem to depend on a right being claimed.
Rather, from what I see, the responsibility to acknowledge the artist exists irrespective of it being claimed. And libraries, as in as much as they are responsible social institutions, seek to fulfill their responsibilities. The librarians I know seem to be keenly aware of their social and ethical responsibilities.

An engineer is not an artist performer! It must not appears in main artist!

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