Sound Effects and Cue Sheets

Because of the lack of education in the film production community about cue sheets, we get a constant flow of questions about cue sheet filings. This post’s question is about sound effects.

Question: We purchased some audio sound effects from Productiontrax.com recently, and are filing cue sheets. Do we need to include every sound file we used on the cue sheet? How do we do this?

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because this one has an easy answer: no. Sound effects are not entered on cue sheets (unless it’s a bona fide musical composition).

There’s a technical copyright-law-legalese explanation for why that is, but basically, one can’t stake a claim to the underlying intellectual property of a fart or a honk or a quack or a bark or a… you get the idea. While the actual sound recording is copyrighted, and yes, you need to license it, there is no public performance right associated to it, and therefore, there is no need to track it.

As briefly mentioned, however, the one exception is when a sound effect contains a musical composition. For example, a sound effect of someone playing or singing Happy Birthday would need to be reported on a cue sheet. Why? Because the song Happy Birthday is under copyright (yes it is) and has public performance rights and royalties attached to it.

Hopefully, this should come as a relief to all of you out there who like to throw a million sound effects into a single production project — like we did in our YouTube video. Leave the sound effects off your cue sheets (in fact, our automated cue sheet tool will not even let them be entered) — and sit back and enjoy the fruits of you labor for once.

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