Scanning Project Preserves Evidence

Volume CIV, No. 9September, 2004

Bill Dennison

The Recording Department has begun a scanning project that will preserve in digital form all of the sound recording contracts filed at Local 802 dating back to1986.

These paper documents, filed and stored in the basement at the union headquarters, represent the evidence needed to insure that musicians are properly paid for any new use of their recorded product.

While the paper documents remain in readable form, there has long been concern about preserving these contracts against their inevitable degradation. The scanning project will insure that these contracts and the information they contain are preserved well into the future.

In addition to preservation, the other goal of the scanning project is to make these documents far more accessible. Once the project is completed, all of these old phono and sound recording contracts will be in a searchable database.

Along with the scanner hardware, the union has purchased the necessary storage and retrieval software. This, in combination with Local 802’s updated Electronic Media Data Collection System, will allow the union to search the database by song title, artist, record label, session date, leader or musician. This will make the job far easier of finding the contract form needed to verify that a new-use payment may be due.

For example, should a recording that you performed on end up in a movie, the union will be able to search for the original contract B-form based on any of the parameters listed above. Similarly, if previously recorded but never released material turns up on a new CD, the union will now have a greatly improved chance of finding the original contract.


The scanned contracts are stored as PDF files, which have been recognized by courts as legal documents. A printed copy of the scanned document can be presented to a film’s producer or record company as the evidence needed to insure proper payment under the appropriate AFM agreement.

The Coordinating Advisory Committee allocated funds from the Special Projects and Services Fund to assist in the purchase of the scanning equipment as well as the storage and retrieval software. It is expected that the project will take about a year.

Los Angeles Local 47 has also set itself the goal of scanning and preserving all of its phono and sound recording contracts.

Earlier this summer, at the initiative of the AFM Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, Local 802 hosted a meeting with the fund, the AFM, and the major recording locals (Los Angeles, New York and Nashville), to help insure that the various scanning and preservation efforts would produce compatible databases.