Talk:Wikilegal/MIDI Files

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Article Update Incoming[edit]

Hi all. I am working on an update of the article that should hopefully clarify the issue and help you make a more informed decision on what media to use. Hahnw (talk) 18:46, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Thank you again for all your work William. It would be nice to have clarification on whether a minor variation of PD sheet music stored in midi format has enough 'threshold of originality' to make a midi version copyrightable. The WMF policy on this, the US policy, and the policy of countries with lower thresholds may all differ. Clarification also on whether a midi of PD sheet music is truly a 'sound recording' that can be copyrighted. Reverse engineering may be the wrong term, but if tracks are digitally extracted and not written from scratch are they just copies of PD works or derivatives, etc, etc. --Canoe1967 (talk) 19:31, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
The article update has been posted! It does now address 100% machine created MIDIs, but like a lot of legal issues the answer is somewhere between "it depends" and "it's a judgment call." Hahnw (talk) 00:40, 26 May 2012 (UTC)

I will thicken the soup[edit]

The music and lyrics for a song called Wabash Cannonball were written in 1882 and are now in the public domain. I have found numerous versions of it in .mid format on the net. Some are copyrighted as derivitive works. Some may have added enough creative content to qualify for copyright. Some seem like they have just added public domain midi tracks of background instruments like drums, basses, rhythm etc. How much creativity is needed to consider it a copyrightable work? I can understand that they may be considered as recorded performances as well. If they are digital versions public domain sheet music combined with public domain background tracks can they be considered a copyrightable performace? If I select different tracks and modify a version can I realease my version as public domain, even if I selected only one public domain track from each version.Canoe1967 (talk) 22:32, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Faithful reproductions of free/PD works[edit]

Software exists by which one can scan sheet music and have it automatically converted into a MIDI file. Because it's machine-created -- a mechanical reproduction -- I think the resultant MIDI file would not have any new copyright. Taking a black-box approach, a human doing the same thing -- making a faithful reproduction -- should also not have a new copyright. This is the same basic principal the court applied in Bridgeman v. Corel, but applied here to musical compositions rather than works of two-dimensional visual art. To be clear, I'm referring here to "slavish copying". Suppose I take a common, simple, public domain melody -- "Mary had a little lamb", for example -- and write it out in 4/4 time, key of C, in double staves for piano, in the octave of middle C. If I tried to enforce a copyright on that, I'd be laughed out of court. But you're suggesting that, if I encode the same thing as a MIDI file -- a single line of unaccompanied melody, in a common key, to be played by a common instrument or a digital representative thereof -- I would now have a copyright claim? I could maybe see that in "sweat of the brow" jurisdictions like the UK or Australia, but that makes no sense in the context of American copyright law. What am I missing? cmadler (talk) 13:35, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

I have now posted a pretty thorough overview of the Sweat of the Brow which should help clear this up for you (as much as that is possible). Posted here. Hahnw (talk) 18:10, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
It occurs to me that the creation of a MIDI file is very similar to the creation of a piano roll for a player piano. Since it's an older form of technology, perhaps there's some case history there that's relevant to the treatment of MIDI files? Thanks, cmadler (talk) 13:56, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
The comparison has been made before between the two technologies. FWIW piano rolls weren't copyrightable under the 1909 Copyright Act, but the 1976 Copyright Act was formed to be inclusive of piano rolls. See http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat071205.html#N_4_. I hope the article update helps! I broke the issue down to its components a bit more to help differentiate between the fixation issue (i.e. Is MIDI encoding a recording?) and the originality issue (e.g. Automatically crafted MIDIs). Hahnw (talk) 21:57, 27 May 2012 (UTC)
Sounds a bit like Commons:Template:PD-monkey to me, except that it is not a monkey but a computer which creates the MIDI file. The process sounds a bit like Google translation: you take a work, put it in a computer and press a button, and something is returned from that. Normal translations are copyrightable, but what about Google translations? --Stefan2 (talk) 14:12, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps a PD-mechanical, or something like that? cmadler (talk) 15:47, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Own works tagged as PD-old or PD-ineligible[edit]

What happens when a user creates a MIDI file himself and tags it as PD-ineligible (e.g. en:File:Alternating time signatures2.mid) or PD-old-100 (e.g. en:File:Adeste Fideles sheet music sample.mid)? Do we treat those as insufficiently licensed, or what? The uploader is still active so it is probably possible to get a free licence for the MIDI files from him, but it would save some time if the current licence claims could stay the way they are. --Stefan2 (talk) 14:19, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Is this similar to museums or a zoo that was discussed recently? It seems the zoo allows cameras but tries to claim copyright of any images of animals etc. taken by tourists at the zoo. I have heard that some museums claim copyright on images on their websites that are simply photos of PD-old 2D works. I seem to remember reading that in some countries they cannot claim copyright even if they took the picture, posted it on the net, and added a copyright - all rights reserved type tag to it.--Canoe1967 (talk) 19:38, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Email from US.gov[edit]

I sent an email asking about midi files to the US copyright office. They quoted this from (I think), section 106 of the copyright law. "Any changes made to a public domain work (the inclusion of a new forward, additional text) might be subject to copyright protection if the new work contains enough copyrightable subject matter to sustain a claim." I think the key phrase is 'sustain a claim'. I will see if I can find the .pdf section, but I think I do remember reading a similar statement there.--Canoe1967 (talk) 20:27, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

My conclusion[edit]

Write my on PD MIDIs from scratch, or use tracks from PD/free license MIDIs.--Canoe1967 (talk) 00:42, 2 June 2012 (UTC)