November 19, 2011

A Note About How Copyright Doesn't Work...

by Chris Randall

One question I get with fairly alarming regularity in the AD Info box goes something like this: "I bought $PLUG_IN from you, and I'm going to use it to make samples to sell. Is there some sort of royalty I need to pay?"

I had a fellow a month or so ago that downloaded our three free plug-ins, then wrote me a lengthy request for freedom from indemnity should he actually use them.

If I only got this question and its variants once or twice, I'd just chalk it up to "kids today." But it comes pretty frequently, enough to be a little alarming. And enough to actually warrant me saying this out loud: There is NO SCENARIO in which you need to pay royalties to an instrument or effects maker for the use of a product you purchased, or which the maker gave you, in no legal system in any country.

I will grant that copyright is a somewhat confusing subject, made all the more so by the addition of things like Creative Commons, which only serve to complicate it. (I would wager that 1 in 100 that use Creative Commons licenses actually understand what they're doing.) Audio Damage can patent a sound-generation method, and exploit that patent, but we can not copyright the resulting sounds. There is no mechanism by which this can occur.

Things get a little odd when it comes to sample collections. The onus is on the creator of the sample set to make it clear to the customer the nature of the license he purchased. In the early days of sample CDs, I bought one that was made by George Clinton, and the obligatory license was roughly the same as the hoops you'd have to go through and what you'd have to pay to use a snip of an actual P-Funk song. And many of the sample sets for GigaStudio in the early days of that program had licensing that was so ridiculous you essentially couldn't use the products without a legal team on standby, and a checkbook at hand.

But that's a different thing entirely. We're talking about plug-ins. To the best of my knowledge (which, in this case, is fairly extensive) it is impossible to copyright the output of an instrument, or a sound that has been altered by an effect, if you purchased a product expressly for that purpose, sold as such. While it'd be nice to get a couple cents every time a song was played with Dubstation on it, the simple fact of the matter is that ain't how things work.


Page 3 of 3

Nov.20.2011 @ 12:18 PM
Yeah, I guess sample sets are an inherently tricky topic as well. Instead of using a EULA you could copyright the samples themselves then grant a non-exclusive right to let people use them in a derivative work. That might be how it's handled in something like Tempest, since it doesn't require the user to acknowledge anything before using. Though Huggie might know more about that topic.

As far as the Best of Tempest, DSI could clearly sue anyone who used Tempest in the name for trademark infringement, so copyright wouldn't necessarily have to come into that.

At the end of the day, the confusing edge cases like Bloom are what lawyers and case law are for. Brian Eno could claim a copyright on it's output and the only real way to prove it is to get sued by him an lose.

Nov.20.2011 @ 12:30 PM
Ain't Gibson try to sue the creators of Rockband with some silly copyright claim ?

Nov.20.2011 @ 5:42 PM
I use a bunch of generative music software, and I also use a modular system now that oftentimes seem to have a mind of its own. Should I credit it then? Co-composed by Migthy Modular (BMI)?. Or maybe credit Shawn who helped me focus my module selection? Seriously, to me its all about your own integrity as a composer/producer and what you end up putting out there. If I use a generative approach as the basis for a composition, I input enough rules and restrictions and add enough processing (incl. pitch based) and other elements/parts to make it something I consider a creation of my own, and not that of chance, or others code and algorithms. I am compelled to do this. If I didn't I would feel like an idiot. I was never interested in pure process for the sake of it. And yes, I need to own the copyright-for-life in this resulted work because I will put it out there to help me put food on the table. Also, we can't all be Brian Eno of course who, even if he is sincere, can certainly afford to be very philosophical in areas like this. I remember seeing him speak once in the Sepulveda Pass... I hung on to his every word and he was very interesting indeed, albeit a wee bit smug according to a friend. I guess one can argue that he has earned that right!

Nov.20.2011 @ 11:14 PM
kid vs chemical
Are people really that stupid?

Yeah, I guess they are...

Nov.20.2011 @ 11:42 PM
@analogcre8or - It's not illegal to sell samples created by the Tempest, or to say they're from the Tempest. There's no license restrictions, too much hassle for very minimal gain. You're not going to get more than a fraction of the range the instrument is capable of using a sample set, it's just a little taste to wet your appetite. Hopefully a few people who like them will end up buying a unit and it'll all work out in the end

I am curious about Omnisphere's licensing, that's pretty complicated when you get into the details... no 'non-musical' usage, can't distribute 'multitrack' project files since it exposes the spectrasonics file, can't post samples or loops, etc. Seems like it would incredibly difficult to enforce, really just there to prevent people from blatantly stealing the samples I suppose.

Nov.21.2011 @ 12:24 AM
Chris Randall
Yeah, just ridiculous legal jargon drummed up by some back-alley lawyer trying to earn his keep that most people ignore, and rightly so.

I wish I hadn't tossed all those GigaSampler disks I had. The licenses on the loop sets were some of the most comical things I've seen in this business, and that's saying something. They were basically "if you even go so far as to put this disk in your computer, never mind copying its contents on to your hard drive, you've pretty much given up any hope of making another sound without giving us 50% of your gross earnings." I'm exaggerating for comedic effect, of course, but only slightly. The license really was that restrictive.


Nov.21.2011 @ 3:46 AM
mad ep
This thread wins the Internet.

While it states a lot I *thought* or *figured* to be true.. it is great to have some seasons vets weighing in to confirm.

Also some details I didn't know before.

Thank you.

Nov.21.2011 @ 4:08 AM
mad ep
*seasoned vets

posting before coffee = fail.

Nov.21.2011 @ 4:58 AM
@Pym - This makes sense re. Tempest, and what I have seen from the libraries I have purchased over the years is, yes, the licensing terms getting simplified and more 'realistic', with Omnisphere perhaps being one of the few exceptions. The fact is, with Omisphere, for many (artistically worthless) musical pursuits you can fool (some) people (that you need to fool) into thinking you have created a genius piece of ambient underscore for instance, while your 'work' involved just a gentle index finger push on middle C and some spastic left hand work on the mod wheel, maybe tossing in some Pan and Filter Station. Works in realty teevee all the time, I'm sure. Your whole cue might be just a single 'Omnistem'?. _____ does not like that... and _____ still likes to be credited on the cover of your albums. Enforcing it? I don't think so. I also wonder how many commercially available sample libraries contain disguised raw material from Omnisphere. I'd be surprised if there were none.

Nov.21.2011 @ 1:19 PM
Thanks, DGillespie for clarifying the differences between copyrights, patents and trademarks. This definitely seems to be a point of confusion, especially where software is involved.

Not sure how many here would agree, but I find software patents to be a very pernicious idea.

Page 3 of 3



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.