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#944775 - 02/29/08 08:35 PM Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
Shadow Rider Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 17
Loc: Roanoke Virginia
I decided to post here because I figured that teachers would probably know more about this type of thing. I was wondering about the legalities of distributing sheet music and MIDI files of copyrighted songs.

For example, today I sat down and figured out most of the song Hurt by Christina Aguliera. If I were to make a MIDI file and sheet music of this and distribute it through a website or peer to peer fileshare program would I be at risk of getting into any sort of trouble?

Just wondering if anyone can shed some light on this for me.

Thanks.

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#944776 - 02/29/08 09:04 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
[Non legal advice below]

I could be wrong, but it would seem to me that the midi and sheet would be an 'arrangement' and considered a derivative work of copyrighted material. The best advice I could offer is to consult with an attorney before proceeding or seek permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Source: http://www.mpa.org/copyright_resource_center/faq

 Quote:
Do I need permission to make an arrangement or transcription?

If an arrangement is made of a copyrighted work without the authorization of the copyright owner, the arrangement would be an unauthorized derivative work and therefore an infringement of the copyright and the exclusive right of the copyright owner. The first thing to do when you want to make an arrangement is check if the work is in the public domain or if it is protected by copyright. If the work is protected by copyright, you cannot make an arangement without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

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#944777 - 02/29/08 09:16 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
Shadow Rider Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 17
Loc: Roanoke Virginia
Thanks for the info. I guess I'll keep 'em to myself.

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#944778 - 02/29/08 09:17 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
oftentimes a copyrighted work is based on a public domain work.

For example, go to www.wikipedia.org and look at ALL the copyrighted songs that are based on classical music. There are A LOT.

POPULAR SONGS BASED ON CLASSICAL MUSIC

You might look and see if "HURT" is based on something from pre 1923 or whatever the cutoff years is.
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#944779 - 02/29/08 09:25 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Shadow Rider, that's a great reference! Thanks.

I remember years ago, while living in Germany, hearing a recording on the radio of an old Italian organ composition which immediately reminded of a pop tune from the 50's, Beautiful, beautiful Brown Eyes. At the time, I was just learning German, and didn't catch the name of the composer, but if was from the late 18th century, and most of Brown Eyes was/is a direct copy!
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#944780 - 03/01/08 05:44 AM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
As the other posters have said, you can't do that unless you get permission. However...

 Quote:
Originally posted by Shadow Rider:
would I be at risk of getting into any sort of trouble?[/b]
Yes, but the risk is incredibly small. Probably insignificantly small. I'm not encouraging you to distribute the sheet music, although I'd personally have no problems with the MIDI file. It's up to you to make the risk vs. benefits trade-off. \:\)
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#944781 - 03/01/08 06:00 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I'm not so sure about the risk being so small, especially if the midi is being distributed over the Internet.

http://www.webthumper.com/midi/

I'd agree, if you copied a DVD you had rented for your own personal use, its pretty unlike the FBI will show up at your doorstep (despite their warnings).

However, any artist who has any interest in protecting their rights can easily search the Internet and the midi or arrangement can 'easily' be found. In (some of) their eyes, its a great opportunity for a lawsuit. Clearly, their rights have been infringed upon and the probablility of winning a lawsuit or settlement are better than average.

I think its one of those situations were an ounce of prevention (i.e. obtaining permission first) is worth many pounds of cure.

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#944782 - 03/02/08 04:37 AM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
You don't need to obtain permission first, you just need to pay licensing fees (of course, details vary in different countries).

See here for example:
http://www.soundclick.com/solutioncenter/default.cfm?subOf=133

(And: I am not a laywer. \:D )
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#944783 - 03/04/08 05:57 AM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
WillisWill Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/08
Posts: 125
Loc: Charlottesville, VA
A good example of the state of things in the US can be found at http://www.olga.net/

OLGA is a webpage featuring transcriptions of popular songs in guitar tabulature format. Hard to say exactly how this case would/will play out in the courts, but you can take a look at the letter from the copyright holders' attorney to see how the industry feels about people distributing transcriptions of their songs.

The MPA page linked above by Akira is from the industry, so you have to take their interpretation of copyright laws with a grain of salt (after all, they are interested in maximizing the value of their products). If you were a professional teacher and you arranged the song for your students, distributing it might not be considered infringement under the "fair use" doctrine.
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#944784 - 03/04/08 03:14 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
You don't need to obtain permission first, you just need to pay licensing fees (of course, details vary in different countries).

See here for example:
http://www.soundclick.com/solutioncenter/default.cfm?subOf=133

(And: I am not a laywer. \:D ) [/b]
The automatic license and applicable statutory licensing fee only applies to recordings of works that have already been recorded once. It does not apply to publishing arrangements of the piece. That requires permission from the copyright holder.

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#944785 - 03/04/08 04:29 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
Right. But just to be sure, that statutory licensing free would cover making and publishing a MIDI version of a tune, right? MIDI isn't really a traditional form of recording, I suppose.
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#944786 - 03/04/08 05:10 PM Re: Distribuiting Sheets and MIDI's of Copyrighted Songs
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
As far as I know, the Copyright Office still views MIDI files as sound recordings. So in theory, the MIDI file itself could be subject to the automatic licensing rights of the statutory mechanical license.

My own view, fwiw, is that this compulsory license would only extend to the MIDI file to the extent it is used as a traditional sound recording. If it is used in connection with printouts and educational materials, I don't think it would hold. I think you would need to handle it the same way you would an arrangement, because then it falls more into the category of a derivative work that you are using, not for music recording purposes, but for some other purpose.

There may be more recent learning on this. Copyright law seems to develop quickly these days, as it tries to keep pace with technological and cultural changes. Anyway, there is no question in my mind that the printout of an arrangement is a derivative work, regardless of how it was input in the first place (ie, inputing it via a MIDI device so it can be printed out and distributed will not protect you from having to obtain permission).

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