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.