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A discussion about copyright

permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 12:14 PM
I’d like to debate about copyright in 2007. All of us are remixers, all of us we use samples to build our tracks. Ok the question is: what are copyright limits?
I make some examples: if i sample a single snare hit of James Brown, i could have problems? No you will say, because it is impossible to recognize the source of sample. Mmmh…and so we could make a different example: if i use a superfamous beat (for example We Will Rock You incipit), but i work a lot on the loop changing pitch, stretch, dynamics, could my work be condemned? The Queen can really copyright a “boom boom tcha”, even if it is hardly recognizable from listeners? There is a legal differences from manipulating THAT boom boom tcha, making it really different from the original, or remaking that beat with midi instruments or playing it with a real drum? I’m a bit confused about that. All of us we have soundbanks that we’ve built in years, sampling a James Brown kickdrum, a Bonzo snare, etc..etc..
What do you think about a writer that copyright a common period like “once upon in a time”?
What is the difference from a little sample or a phrase from a book?

Second question: why authorities can close CCMixter servers, if they find copyrighted stuff, and Youtube can host every kind of copyrighted material? And also some tv use Youtube movies, but i’m sure they don’t pay a buck to Youtube or to youtube users.

Ok, i hope that members could answer to this simple questions, because i’m a bit confused.
John Pazdan
permalink   Tue, Jun 12, 2007 @ 8:17 AM
Victor-excellent idea re contacting the commercial resellers about whether or not their products are “CC-legal”..or something like that..and a nice thing for them to attach to their products hype for selling the library.
There’s a line being drawn between open source and not that even the commercial manufacturers/providers are taking a stand on..and within our community, we know who we’d support, no?
permalink   Tue, Jun 12, 2007 @ 9:43 AM
Hi guys, i’ve read a lot of CcMister best practices, and it is very useful.
But in my starting post i wasn’t talking about CCMixter, but generally about samples.
I really would like to know what are copyright limits:

1) manipulating a bit of music making it moreless unrecognizable to listeners is a violation?
2) remaking an existing beat using midi, is a violation?
3) There is an artist that own rights over a common “tunz tunz tunz” (techno/house) beat structure?

You have talked about the Amen Break, i don’t know it but i’d like to better understand the question.
Using the original sample is a violation, as i read above.
Recreating the same beat structure (kick, snare, hats etc..) via midi or a real drum, not using original sounds is a violation of copyright?
And using the single Amen drum hits, heavily alterating the beat structure building a new beat, could be considered as a violation of copyright?

Finally: what is really copyrighted in a song? The original sounds, the metric, the melody, the arrangement, the dynamics, the chords, the lyrics?

If a whistle a famous song in the street it is a violation of copyright? Maybe not, but playing the same song with a flute could be. Why?

More: let’s take some records sample-based, for example Dj Shadow works, or earlier Public Enemy albums. In those records you can find i presume hundreds of sample cuts, breaks, vocals, spoken, fx, someone knows if their companies have paid hundred of licenses before selling them? And someone knows how much they have paid? It would be useful to know!

I think it is interesting to know more about the price of sample licensing: it is usually a fixed price or a royalty from the percentage of sold records?

I presume these are basic info in a remixer’s community, and i’d like to debate about this with all of you.
permalink   Nitropox@CCmixter Tue, Jun 12, 2007 @ 1:44 PM
Generaly, it is all matter of law. Law is kinda art of interpretation and it is very hard to discouss about copyrights without assistance of specialized lawyer, without a knowledge about some important judical precedents and test cases.
Now, Federal law might be a bit different than European Union law. So, i woulld like to mention that i might be terribly wrong in some points, all my feelings in that matter are based on my experience and on couple articles i did read.

Songs, Samples, Loops, Single hits
Generaly, you must have license for everything which is taken from the others. Loops, single hits..everything, no matter if a sample duration is 0.5 sec or 5 sec.
Sometimes you can ask directly artist, company or anyone who is the owner of certain music/rights and you can get a permission without paying a single cent. Sometimes you have to sign up some contract or agreement.
But most commonly, you just have to buy a license for using a certain sample/song.
There are zillion companies who live thx to reselling music rights and licenses for everything.
If you buy a song, for example for TV commercial, you usualy buy a license for a certain time, territory area and certain media types. You can as well buy a license which allows publishing music on a CD or in internet.
Everything you wish is possible as long you have the money.
If we are talkling about sample libraries, virtual instruments, software and some other things, it is worth to know if you buy single-user license or multi-user license.

Every country has some law act which defines and describes exactly copyrights and how lond do they last. In most of the world the default length of copyright for many works is generally the life of the author plus either 50 or 70 years.

Defining Original Song/Tune

This is really hard theme, and you have to check particulary your local act law which treats about copyright with assistance of legal expert who charges 500$ for an hour ;)

I can tell you only about my country which is a part of European Union.
According to our act law we categorize songs into three groups (this is my translation, and it might be not accurate):
- self-conducted (read it: fully original song, without any influences from other songs..)
- inspired (read it: inspired by someone or made under someones influence)
- not-self-conducted (e.g. remixes, covers)

Whatever it means, only a court can judge, (normaly after consultation with court expert which is offten some famous professor of music)if the song was wrongly categorized and if somebody had submited motion for the examination of a case.

Well, lets not talk about schems like: there are zillion blues songs in same tonation, there are zillion sambas and bossanovas. I seriously dont have idea how to treat it all. I am sure Victor would ask CC lawyers to write some article for us…

As for the rhythm written in midi, dude..i cannot imagine some1 will prove me he has invented some groove (we are talking only about the notation, about kinda time-sharing) good luck with the court. Maybe there would be some precedent if your song could be evidently original thx to stand-alone extraordinary rhythm no matter on what instrument played, but usualy rhythm isnt used on its own as ‘music’, its not music in itself, its a part of some song. Again, i am too short this is case for philosophers.

Oke, thx for reading..i hope this would help you a bit, still you gotta hire a specialized lawyer for more detailed info.

useful links:
permalink   victor Tue, Jun 12, 2007 @ 10:44 AM

Well before we get too far let me point out that what you are looking for a discussion about specific legal issues. Be careful: ONLY A LAWYER can answer these questions with any authority. Everybody else is guessing and therefore it is irresponsible to discuss these matters with just anybody online.

If we started a thread on open heart surgery, would you trust the people here and start carving up your friend’s chest? How about building a house? Would you live in a house built using the advice from amateur architects?

There are discussion groups that have staff from Creative Commons (including lawyers) that hang out at which is where I advice you to go for a more serious legal discussion.

I can tell you anecdotally what I’ve heard of:

- all recordings are owned, all rights reserved, by somebody, unless they put it into the Public Domain. They may choose to loosen some restrictions using, say Creative Commons licenses, but that’s rare. “manipulating a bit of music making it moreless unrecognizable to listeners is a violation?” YES.

- all melodies are copyrighted — typical boundary limit has been 4 notes or more but that’s up to the jury or judge. Most cases I know of go WAY in favor the author, not the copy. That means posting (enough of) a MIDI version of “Yesterday” by the Beatles without their permission is against the law. “If a whistle a famous song in the street it is a violation of copyright?” I think it is actually, if you do it in a bar or cafe it definitely is a violation.

- afaik beat patterns are not copyright but I could be (as with everything) 100% wrong.

- I used to think that chord progressions are not copyright but I just heard of a huge Guitar Tab site that was shut down.

- Public Enemy was SUED and LOST.

- (I think) DJ Shadow was SUED and LOST, or was THREATENED and SETTLED, but I’m not sure about that one. Either way, all samples are cleared on his newer work.

Think the worst possible scenario for all these cases and then put a $500,000 fine on it, then pack a toothbrush for jail.

or, keep sane and stick with CC/PD only music. The alternative just isn’t worth it.
permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 4:41 PM
Well.. i have legal CD with drum’n’bass samples published by Steinberg few years ago, titled: Drum’n’Base X-citers. Cd full of most famous loops, ye i got Amen here :)
Let me shortcut license from the box:
You can use them in any type of music production, remixes, commercials, jingles, computer games, soundtacks..etc.
You can NOT trade, resell, lend, upload or download to database, BBS or server..etc i think it is like: I did produce a track which contains Amen loop, tho i have rights to use it in my song i cannot publish this song under Creative Commons license because you guys cant then freely remix it since only i have license/rights for Amen loop and i am not able to re-license it to you. Correct?

Oke, now 2 stories about big business and how do they do it.
Friend of mine is a session musican, he recorded couple years ago LP with international pop star. He tells me “..Dude, he took Moloko’s beat to his song and when i asked if he had a permission, he told company will pay it off as soon Moloko or their lawyers will recognize it and call em”.

Yet another same situation. Madonna and her super-hit Hung Up contains tune of Abba. At first, she published the song and when original song composers told she didnt even ask em for permission she sent em a lawyer for negotiations. rules the world.
permalink   victor Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 5:30 PM
Quote: i think it is like: I did produce a track which contains Amen loop, tho i have rights to use it in my song i cannot publish this song under Creative Commons license because you guys cant then freely remix it since only i have license/rights for Amen loop and i am not able to re-license it to you. Correct?

I don’t know. Seriously.

IF: Amen is really legally licensed to Steinberg


IF: Steinberg allows you relicense your remix


Yea, we’re cool. Otherwise, I have no idea. That’s why I keep saying “ask the owners”

At some point we should, as a community, get together and email all the loop/sample vendors we use — everybody would be responsible for one email w/follow through with their vendor of choice — and flat out ask them “Does your license allow for relicensing under Creative Commons? Yes or No?” and then report back here so we could compile a list of a “cleared” libraries.

I don’t know if that would hold up legally but then I’m not sure I want to live in a world where it wouldn’t. (And it doesn’t solve the problem of when the “vendor” has stolen the clip in the first place.)

Quote: Codenow 2 stories about big business and how do they do it….

Both of your stories remind of the meme floating around (that I can’t confirm) that the mainstream entertainment industry spends more money on licensing other people’s music then it does on creating original music. They both apply a combination of the *wink-wink* strategy I mentioned above and teru’s citing of the “come and get me” tactic.

and well, the common punishment for websites is SHUTTING THEM DOWN so by the time we get to “negotiations” with Madonna’s or ABBA’s lawyers it’s all over.

I think Luke and teru’s point should not be lost either — mainly we’re talking about “letter of the law” when overall we really should be talking about “spirit of the site.” That’s what I was trying to get at in my feeble way in the section about growing the sample pool with our own cultural references. (I’m assuming you’re telling every singer/songwriter out there to upload there pells)

But with the recent influx of Vadim fans I thought it was important to let this one rip just for the new folks who haven’t drunken the Kook Aid yet ;)

permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 12:52 PM
sorry, i’ve realized too late that DIY means do it yourself..i’ve posted this in a wrong forum category!
permalink   victor Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 1:29 PM
I put it in ‘help’ — let me know if you want it somewhere else, but I think that works.
permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 1:28 PM
Widely accepted as the most sampled drum break in the world the Amen Break ( Wikipedia page here, art installation and video “ Can I Get An Amen?”) represents a set of questions about sampling with wider implications about art, culture and specific policies about ccMixter.

There are some caveats I need to get out of the way:

I have been instructed, in no uncertain terms, that I am not allowed to dispense legal advice or anything that could be interpreted as such. This is serious business because I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize Creative Commons’ legal tax status as a non-profit. If you find that a stretch you would still be nothing short of a fool if you used information gleaned from a public Internet forum on remixing as an actual legal resource. (“Victor said so” is easily the worst excuse for a defense I can think of.)

Next: When we talk about “liability”, as in: “Who is legally responsible?” we are talking about the site. The voracious, capricious, vindictive use of the judicial system as employed by agents of the established recording industry have been almost exclusively aimed at the people that download illegal material and those that distribute it, or more specifically in our case, host the music on the Web. It’s very rare (ever?) that the case is made against the artist that used the illegal samples in the first place.

So you may get away with making a remix using illegal samples (not that I’m necessarily advocating it because you are still breaking Federal US law) but we, the site are far less likely to survive any prosecution for hosting your remix.

So please: Do NOT take this post as *wink wink* of any kind, like “sure he says no, but he just has to say that… really it’s ok”. No, really, it’s not OK for this site to bend or break the law (more on that later).

Next: I’d like to express my personal opinions on the subject of state of the art and act of sampling: it’s all f**ked up.

I Bought the Sample!

The vast majority of all music you’d want to sample, especially in order to make a cultural reference is completely ‘All Rights Reserved’ That means that whoever made the music (compositionally and sonic’ly) or, more likely, whoever they sold their rights to owns every single aspect of that music. Under these rules you never “buy” the music, you only “license” it. You will never “own” the music and all you can do is all the owner lets you. Which in the case of remixing is always: nothing.

The only exception to the rule is when the owner says, in exactly the right words: you can remix this.

This site has an added burden because as part of the terms of using this site, you must have permission from the owner to “re-license” the resulting remix under a Creative Commons license. If you own the rights to the final remix that might be implied, but I’ve spoken to at least one staff lawyer at CC and one external council that feels the implication is not nearly enough and that the owner should be contacted and asked directly if re-licensing your remix with their sample is acceptable.

Also note: just because someone has the cajones to charge you money for an illegal sample, doesn’t take you off the hook for relicensing it and posting it to the web and certainly doesn’t take the site off the hook for hosting it. At that point, sorry to say, there is little difference between you and the gentlemen who paid for the Brooklyn Bridge.

But it’s Just a Hi-Hat!

I don’t know of a court ruling that has set a “minimum allowable sample” like say, “just a hand clap” or “snare hit.” Just the opposite, the courts have ruled in exactly the opposite direction and every attempt that I know of has come down hard on the side of the recording’s owners. So: NO it is NOT OK to ‘steal a hi hat’ and post it to this site.

It’s OK if I Mangle the Sample

No, it’s not OK. If you don’t have permission to use the sample, you don’t have to right to mangle. If the owner of the sample wants to come after the site for hosting your mangled version of the sample I’m here to tell you: we barely have the resources to even survive the accusation.

Just because you scratched from vinyl or ran it through the grooviest Mother-Of-Mangler VST — you’re still breaking the law when you post it here and put the site at risk if we don’t take it down.

A good hi hat sample is worth it’s weight in gold. But is it worth never seeing this site again?

90% of the site does that!

Then report it. Do it anonymously using our flagging system, that’s OK. I will fall on that sword and risk hurting people’s feeling (not something I set out to do, but seem to have a natural propensity for.)

What about “Fair Use”

One more time: I am not a lawyer. Either way I’m told ccMixter would have a hard time selling that as a defense so it may apply to some situation you find yourself in, but not here.

It’s Can’t Be That Bad

Sure it is.

I found, in my personal life, 2 ways to fix the system:

1) The first has been to make my services available to Creative Commons (I am paid to hang out here, write bugs, er, write code, fix bugs, etc…) because when the legal global Sample Pool is big enough and the last self-absorbed Boomer has finally shuffled off the mortal coil, then we won’t feel the need to make cultural references to corporate owned material and people like Brad Sucks and Lisa DeBenedictis (and you?!?!?) will be the new cultural references.

2) I, on my own, in no way representing CC occasionally take part in overt acts of civil disobedience in which I partake in explicitly illegal activity (usually in league with lots of other folks) in order to raise awareness of the situation.

Let me make as clear as I can that this site is NOT the place to do that latter activity. Please don’t use this site to “take your stand” in terms of breaking the law. There are lots of opportunities to do that around the Web and Creative Commons is not to be any part of that.

Hope this helps explain things a little…

permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 1:40 PM
YouTube has it’s own problems, ones that I would like to avoid.
Luke Tripp
permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 2:34 PM
It’s not a matter of, “no one will recognize it” or “it’s less than a second”. This site is for the promotion of Creative Commons. Showing what Creative Commons is about and how well it works. Sure you can use copyrighted material in your remixes but DON’T post them here. It’s not what the site is about.

I do a lot of remixes of copyrighted songs; ie, No One, Where’d You Go?, and Stairway to Heaven (which will be done shortly). Not one part of any of them do I try to add a sample or something from ccMixter or Creative Commons. Creative Commons is here to let artists license their content for use, not make it okay to use copyrighted material. Now yes, I do license my copyright ‘infringemented’ remixes under CC because they are a “creative product of my work” but that is for the instrumentals and I make clear as day to who the vocals belong to and that they are not licensed.

Bottom line: If it doesn’t have a CC or PD, don’t post it here. It’s not what Creative Commons is about.
permalink   Mon, Jun 11, 2007 @ 2:45 PM
All right. Let’s get this BBQ started. : )

Copyright in 2007. Legal loopholes.

Ever heard one of those car commercials where the music sounds like a popular song but with ever so slight changes to avoid paying the original author any credit?

How about companies like YouTube who use content without permission and adopt a sue me if you dare attitude.

Creators need lawyers to keep from getting screwed. Companies hire lawyers to find loopholes to exploit to maximize profit.

Once one of these loopholes stops benefiting business then things change. But don’t hold your breath. I mean, why would they hurry?

For those of us who cannot afford to fight with teams of lawyers, we should stick to doing our own thing. Mixing, sampling others who give us permission in advance. People who share, comment and do what they can to support you. It’s different way of co-existing.

My 2 cents.