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Sambo J

Using MIDIs of Copyright Songs in custom WADs

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Hello!

 

I'm curious on the legality of using MIDIs of copyright songs in custom WADs. While the original Doom soundtrack dodged it by using loose modification to songs like Master of Puppets by Metallica & This Love by Pantera; is it considered perfectly fine to use note-for-note MIDI replication of famous artists copyright songs in custom Doom WADs?

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They didn't care about custom MIDIs based on copyrighted songs even when MAFIAA RIAA and Lars Ulrich were getting mad at Napster, I doubt they care now. it's prolly impossible to count how many WADs in the archive have used MIDIs of the actual Masters of Puppets. Just one of those gray area things that don't get much attention.

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Posted (edited)

The important thing to remember is that in music, there are two types of music copyrights: compositions and recordings.

 

Recording copyrights tend to be held by artists and labels/record companies, who are represented by the RIAA (and equivalent organizations in other countries). If you use an actual original recording in your mod, e.g. as an MP3 or OGG, these guys will probably sue you if they find out, or at least issue a Cease & Desist notice.

 

Composition copyrights are more likely to be held by songwriters and publishers, who to my knowledge are *not* represented by the RIAA (though I could be wrong). An individual songwriter is highly unlikely to take legal action over a Doom mod, and publishers are only responsible for distributing royalties for commercial use of a composition - a free mod would be outside their purview. Now if you were to try to sell or otherwise monetise your mod, that would be a different story.

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MIDI is generally fine regardless of circumstance. Even mp3 use seems to be fine as long as it isn't too blatant. As long as you aren't using an mp3 of Enter Sandman, you'll be okay.

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It's pretty much covered by the other replies, but I'd add to just do the courtesy of crediting the artists. Won't make a difference legally but at least you'd have your conscience clear :P

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately, YouTube still recognizes such music and you get scolded.

Edited by Dimon12321

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3 hours ago, Doomkid said:

Long story short - it's not exactly legal but no one cares. The law is not a reflection of morality, so myself and 99% of other Doomers go by the "do what thou wilt" approach when it comes to MIDI files. 

 

Time for me to track down a decent MIDI version of "Houses of the Holy" ;)

 

I noticed Mr Romero released a note-for-note Slayer track in his zip file of unreleased Doom MIDI files... I suppose it shouldn't really matter as long as people aren't selling their WAD files.

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4 hours ago, Doomkid said:

Long story short - it's not exactly legal but no one cares. The law is not a reflection of morality, so myself and 99% of other Doomers go by the "do what thou wilt" approach when it comes to MIDI files.

 

Somewhat off-topic, but might be interesting -

 

Yeah, the quote @Doomkid uses is something I have often wondered about before - at what point does a tune (sequence of sounds with particular pitch and duration) diverge from being the song in question? Take the Master of Puppets example - just imagine that tune played on a hurdey gurdey or mouth harp or some other utterly non-metal instrument? Is that still a copyright infringement? It would certainly in no way be mistaken for Metallica...

 

Is it just the tune, or the instrument(s) on which it is played as well that count? Certainly, the tune on paper (i.e. the notations on a stave) would be covered under copyright law, but a soundwave (digitally stored or otherwise)?

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My interpretation is that fan-made MIDIs are basically cover songs. The copyright seems to be more relative to the MIDI format. A lot of electronica-style music is MIDI sequenced, I imagine using their studio MIDI files might be a problem.

 

As far as melody conversions go, people have been sued for copying vocals using a flute. It's a bit silly because drums are a percussion instrument like piano, with their suing logic there's a copyright drum track in every song ever made.

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You gotta keep 'em separated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait, fuck.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, smeghammer said:

at what point does a tune (sequence of sounds with particular pitch and duration) diverge from being the song in question? Take the Master of Puppets example - just imagine that tune played on a hurdey gurdey or mouth harp or some other utterly non-metal instrument? Is that still a copyright infringement? It would certainly in no way be mistaken for Metallica...

Think about this - you take someone's novel written in English, translate it into Arabic without their permission and then publish the translation.

- the layout of every single page is different

- literally every single word is different

- the damn writing system is different

- even the work itself can't be said to be the same because it's virtually impossible to translate a big work into another language and retain 100% of the same meaning

 

Is it still copyright infringement?..... Yeah, absolutely it is. You have taken someone's creative work and reused it without their permission. It's still the same creative work, even if it's in a completely different, and for vast majority of people completely unrecognizable, format.

 

You take someone's song, record it in out of tune farting and then publish it - yep, that's copyright infringement. Now:
- lawsuits cost money and you can get very bad PR if you're seen as a wealthy individual/company bullying "the little guy"
- unlike trademarks you don't need to do absolutely anything and your copyright rights still apply for their whole duration (which is ridiculous 70 years after author's death for persons and 95/120 years from publication/creation for companies in the US; keep in mind patent rights that are for actual physical things and cost good money to obtain last 20 years)
- virtually every single person on Earth that owns an electronic device has engaged in copyright infringement in one way or another, if they know about it or not

 

As such, you're very unlikely to get sued or face any other negative consequences unless you try to earn money from your artsy recording.
 

Edited by Keyboard_Doomer

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 @Keyboard_Doomer yes I agree it's a difficult topic. My point was more about at what point does something change from being copyright infringement and become a 'homage' or 'tribute' or 'inspired by'...

 

Your argument about language and translation is spot on and I would completely agree with you.

 

However I am sure you have heard many bits of music that strongly  remind you of another song - at what point does the sequence of notes become similar enough to the original for it to become an infringement? Is it simply the sequence of pitches and durations? Or is it the waveform itself (e.g. a guitar sound or whatever vs farts)?

 

I don't know... plenty of room for lawyers to open cracks I suspect.

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Posted (edited)

There are no hard rules for that - how would you define them, anyway? Ultimately, that's up to the court to decide and you better have a good lawyer and a stack of money prepared if it comes to that.

 

You might have heard about the Down Under lawsuit where it was decided that the song infringes the copyright of a children's song from 1932 despite the fact that you'd probably never notice the similarity unless you compared the songs side by side and listened very carefully (pretty sure this is what Sambo J was referring to above when he mentioned suing over copying vocals using a flute).

 

On the other hand there's L.H.O.O.Q which you'll find quoted as a prime example of a work that's NOT a copyright infringement on the original. It's literally Mona Lisa with mustache and small beard and a text added under the picture. Not only that but the author of this work owned the copyright to it and since he died in 1968 (less than 70 years ago), whoever owns the copyright to the work in the US now could still sue for damages today (and win) if the current US law was in effect back then (the current 70 years after author's death only applies to works made in 1978 or later). This is a work made in 1919 and Mona Lisa itself is from the early 16th century.

 

So, yeah... it's complicated. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you might want to monetize a work based on a work of someone else, don't even think about doing it before consulting with a lawyer well-versed in the relevant jurisdiction(s) - with YouTube with its Content ID being sort of a convenient exception to that. Most people that have their asses covered by it don't even know how lucky they are to have it. You may hate it but it's the US copyright laws that are the issue, not Content ID.
 

Edited by Keyboard_Doomer

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There was one Megawad from last year (I believe it was) that used nothing but classic rock midis and stuff that would immediately get you flagged / muted / copyright striked if you ever tried to play it on Youtube, Twitch, or anywhere else that DMCA is a thing

 

Literally have to turn the music off. Or just delete it all and run with the stock Doom II music instead.

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glad for this thread, this means I can use the castlemaster midi song for an upcoming castle map

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Posted (edited)

I had a recent experience of having my YouTube account "shadowbanned" (i.e. not taken down, but quietly removed from all search engine results) because a section of Bobby Prince's E1M2 transposed from major to minor was incorrectly flagged by YouTube's Content ID system as copying some random artist's melody that sounded nothing like it, and I disputed the claim, and some YouTube bot evidently assumed that I was guilty before it had the chance to be checked.  I deleted the video, and within two hours my account was back on search engines.  And that was for a false automated claim.  So I'd be wary of uploading MIDI remixes of songs on YouTube, which could trigger rather more legitimate claims.  In the case of just bundling them in a WAD, though, if they were just MIDIs I think it's highly unlikely that they'd cause you any trouble.

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10 hours ago, smeghammer said:

at what point does the sequence of notes become similar enough to the original for it to become an infringement? Is it simply the sequence of pitches and durations? Or is it the waveform itself (e.g. a guitar sound or whatever vs farts)?

 

If we use the Men at Work song as an example; the copyright claim was made on the basis that ~9 notes in a similar sequence, across multiple bars, using a different instrument, and configured in a somewhat poly-rhythmic melody, was enough to be copyright material.

 

This means an E-minor electric guitar note is considered the same as a fart in E-minor.

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9 hours ago, Traysandor said:

There was one Megawad from last year (I believe it was) that used nothing but classic rock midis and stuff that would immediately get you flagged / muted / copyright striked if you ever tried to play it on Youtube, Twitch, or anywhere else that DMCA is a thing

 

Literally have to turn the music off. Or just delete it all and run with the stock Doom II music instead.

Jeez that's a bit overboard. DMCA needs to pull that stick out of its ass.

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Bunch of random MIDIs if anybody's interested, source credits are in the files!

 

Angel of Death - Slayer
No Good - Prodigy
Dead Skin Mask - Slayer
Go - Moby
Becoming - Pantera
Becoming(BassEdit) - Pantera
Cowboys from Hell - Pantera
Walk - Pantera
Climbatize - Prodigy
Smack My Bitch Up - Prodigy
Breathe - Prodigy
Raining Blood - Slayer
Spit - Sepultura ;)
Sic - Slipknot :/
Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf :D

randommidis.zip

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it's okay I guess? I mean Rowdy Rudy 2 MAP20 uses Metallica's Master of Puppets

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Twitch-wise you should be fine but from my experience Youtube automatically flags even MIDI covers of existing songs.

There's no mute/shadowban or anything like that, but the video instantly gets demonetized until you either mute or delete the flagged section.

It's a shitty thing, but what can you do.

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YouTube's copyright stuff is asinine. A band I listen to was trying to do a live show on YouTube last year--not even the full band, just the lead singer and her guitar--and YouTube would let each performance run a couple of minutes before outright deleting it for copyright infringement.

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Posted (edited)

Side note, if any MIDI artists are reading this - You can help people not worry about this by explicitly licensing your tracks with one of the Creative Commons licenses. That way you unambiguously legally allow mappers to use your MIDIs while making clear your wishes about derivative works and attribution. Personally, I use CC0 (Public Domain) for most of my creations, because I don't like having the power to sue people over these things.

 

As for the actual question: yeah it's illegal, but the chances of legal action being taken is low, anyway; especially since lawyers know that the Streisand Effect is a thing.

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Legal or not I doubt Labels are gonna go thru every single .wad file to make sure they don't infringe copyrights, also it's probably fine as long as the creator of the wad doesn't make money out of it.

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Hellbound features a couple of Pantera MIDI covers, but I do not recall the project ever getting in trouble over it.

 

The only way it might become a problem is if it gets featured on Doom Unity like Double Impact (which featured a partial Doom 64 theme song remix) did.

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