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Mockups of music that isn't public domain.

kevthurman

Active Member
Curious about the rules when it comes to creating mockups of non-classical music. If I were to upload mockups, or a series of mockups of film music excerpts, could I get dinged on copyright claims on sites like youtube and twitch?Reason I ask is when Modern Scoring Brass comes out I'm planning to review the library in depth if the demos are appealing, and part of that in depth review process is a series of excerpts from film and classical music that I will use as benchmarks. Is it different if the video is or isn't monetized?
 

Jdiggity1

Stroking The Frog
Moderator
Technically, a mockup would be classed as a 'cover', for which you would need permission in order to monetize.
However, there's already a large number of mockup covers online that don't appear to run into any issues. And there are several sample library walkthroughs that include the Force Theme, for example.
How many guitar or piano demonstration videos contain licks and phrases of well-known songs? If those aren't getting pulled down, I doubt a sample library demonstration would either.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
Licensing covers for digital downloading/streaming can easily cost musicans hundreds of dollars a year depending on how many songs they post. For this reason, a lot of musicians simply don't pay for licensing and play the odds that they'll never get busted. Most won't.

I don't know how YouTube or other video websites work, but covers uploaded to audio websites like SoundCloud must be licensed. On my website for example, I have over twenty virtual instrument demo songs posted. If they were all covers, I'd be paying over $400/year in licensing fees. I can't afford that, so almost all of my demos are originals or arrangements of public domain songs.

Analogy: Over the last five years, more and more drivers in Wisconsin have stopped dimming their high beams on the freeway system. It's illegal and those drivers could be cited for it, but they do it because they're seeing so many other drivers doing it. Either they are ignorant of the law, or else they know the law and are playing the odds they'll never get busted.

My advice would be to read the rules and play by them rather than play the odds. :)

https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/copyright/#support-and-troubleshooting
 
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kevthurman

Active Member
Thanks. I had always been confused because despite what I thought had been the law, many people post mockups of film music here and elsewhere. Nice to know I'm not completely wrong for being paranoid about infringement haha.
 

pderbidge

Senior Member
Jeff Price breaks this down nicely in this video. Essentially it's not as scary as you think. With the advent of Youtube and streaming services, the issue had to be looked at closer and has been but still to this day there are some obscurities in the law, nevertheless most artists/writers etc.. have found that it is more lucrative to "require" they make money from the monetization of those cover videos rather than force them to take it down and potentially piss off a fan base. The legal language that is sent to an account informing them that the monetization of those videos will not go to them but rather to the artist does scare some people off into thinking they are in trouble and the video gets taken down anyways. There are others, however, that just request the videos be taken down with a copyright strike. If they were smart, they would do the former as it's an extra stream of revenue they would not otherwise see.

 

quantum7

I'm 50 now....it's all over!
I remember the industry trying to create a law that would force cover bands to pay them also. Should a pianist who plays a piano version of AC/DC's Highway To Hell and posts it to Youtube now have to pay AC/DC? I do a lot of covers on YT and have found most to be OK, but this is a real sticky subject because again, I can start a band and legally play cover songs and make lot of money doing so, but if I post the same track on YT....which usually makes waaaay less money for most people, then the original artist can now complain? VERY slippery slope! Anyway, even if half my covers eventually get demonetized, they do serve a purpose of helping the channel grow, as to get more viewers to listen to my original music. :)
 
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pderbidge

Senior Member
I remember the industry trying to create a law that would force cover bands to pay them also. Should a pianist who plays a piano version of AC/DC's Highway To Hell and posts it to Youtube now have to pay AC/DC? I do a lot of covers on YT and have found most to be OK, but this is a real sticky subject because again, I can start a band and legally play cover songs and make lot of money doing so, but if I post the same track on YT....which usually makes waaaay less money for most people, then the original artist can now complain? VERY slippery slope!
Most of the time, the original artist is flattered that they have a fan base that cares enough to do covers of their work but it's the legal teams that try to screw everything up. It comes down to whether or not you are making money off of those covers, just as if a film is making money using your music as part of the score. If you are, then yes, a portion of that should go to the original artist. If you are not getting paid then I don't see why anyone should care because it's free advertising right? Assuming credit is being given to the proper creators.
 

quantum7

I'm 50 now....it's all over!
Most of the time, the original artist is flattered that they have a fan base that cares enough to do covers of their work but it's the legal teams that try to screw everything up. It comes down to whether or not you are making money off of those covers, just as if a film is making money using your music as part of the score. If you are, then yes, a portion of that should go to the original artist. If you are not getting paid then I don't see why anyone should care because it's free advertising right? Assuming credit is being given to the proper creators.
Yup! I have seen people do absolutely HORRIBLE covers though, but have thousands of subscribers because they started 10 years ago when there wasn't much competition on YT. I know a friend of a friend who has NEVER had one of his covers challenged, but his videos were created with cheesy electronic keyboards and do not sound very accurate most of the time. Other people, such as myself, only make covers that are as close as possible to the original, and it seems those videos are more of a threat to the copyright holders. Moral or the story, create utter crappy covers and you won't be considered a threat! :2thumbs: :rofl:
 

quantum7

I'm 50 now....it's all over!
My Tron (1982) End Credits that I did with a Modal Electronics 002 synthesizer was challenged, and also my Celestial Soda Pop video, also done with the 002 synth. Another strange one is my Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio) by Aram Khachaturian. I'm not sure whey that was has a CW claim against it for music when I used 8dio's strings and my hardware synths. I've given up trying to understand and am just gratefull that it's only happened a few times. It sure would be nice though to talk to someone at YT as to know exactly what not to do in the future when it comes to covers.
 
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Wally Garten

Active Member
I remember the industry trying to create a law that would force cover bands to pay them also. Should a pianist who plays a piano version of AC/DC's Highway To Hell and posts it to Youtube now have to pay AC/DC? I do a lot of covers on YT and have found most to be OK, but this is a real sticky subject because again, I can start a band and legally play cover songs and make lot of money doing so, but if I post the same track on YT....which usually makes waaaay less money for most people, then the original artist can now complain?
This isn't new, though. Cover bands are always supposed to pay something to use copyrighted works. If you are playing covers in legitimate venues, they should be paying a license fee to ASCAP and similar organizations that collect on behalf of songwriters. If you're cutting cover songs on records, your record company will pay a "mechanical" license for the privilege. (If you're just playing in living rooms for friends, of course, you can get away with not paying any fees, although you will be technically infringing someone's copyright.)

On YT, for the most part, people aren't paying these license fees, so cover songs are infringing. There should probably be some kind of mechanism where YT pays the fee, akin to a venue operator, but it seems no one has worked that out yet.

Other people, such as myself, only make covers that are as close as possible to the original, and it seems those videos are more of a threat to the copyright holders.
Keep in mind that YT uses a sound-analysis algorithm to look for and take down infringing content, so, yes, the closer your version sounds to the original, the more likely it is to be flagged. It's probably not about a perceived threat so much as that they can actually find you. :)
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
Licensing covers for digital downloading/streaming can easily cost musicans hundreds of dollars a year depending on how many songs they post. For this reason, a lot of musicians simply don't pay for licensing and play the odds that they'll never get busted. Most won't.

I don't know how YouTube or other video websites work, but covers uploaded to audio websites like SoundCloud must be licensed. On my website for example, I have over twenty virtual instrument demo songs posted. If they were all covers, I'd be paying over $400/year in licensing fees. I can't afford that, so almost all of my demos are originals or arrangements of public domain songs.

Analogy: Over the last five years, more and more drivers in Wisconsin have stopped dimming their high beams on the freeway system. It's illegal and those drivers could be cited for it, but they do it because they're seeing so many other drivers doing it. Either they are ignorant of the law, or else they know the law and are playing the odds they'll never get busted.

My advice would be to read the rules and play by them rather than play the odds. :)

https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/copyright/#support-and-troubleshooting
Demo songs on your website seem to me like a fairly clear case. But what about a mockup that I make and only post here, for purely educational purposes, could I claim "fair use" for that?
 

quantum7

I'm 50 now....it's all over!
Keep in mind that YT uses a sound-analysis algorithm to look for and take down infringing content, so, yes, the closer your version sounds to the original, the more likely it is to be flagged. It's probably not about a perceived threat so much as that they can actually find you. :)
I was told that I should take it as a compliment that the YT algorithms think my stuff is the original stuff. I guess! LOL

Now I have purposely used material that I absolutely know would get flagged, such as Freddie Mercury's vocals on a Radio Ga Ga cover I did, but it was worth it because his vocals were such a joy to have on my cover that I didn't care. They let me keep it up, but of course I certainly do not get paid for it. Again though, I do covers as to help the channel grow to throw in my originals. At least I can do classical synth mock-ups without issues (except The Gayane Ballet Suite by Aram Khachaturian) but I think the 2001 movie photos I used is what that problem was perhaps.
 

Wally Garten

Active Member
Demo songs on your website seem to me like a fairly clear case. But what about a mockup that I make and only post here, for purely educational purposes, could I claim "fair use" for that?
If it's for educational purposes, it's far more likely to be considered fair use. But there are other factors to consider, too, like:

the nature of the copyrighted work;

the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work​

So if you made a mockup that used the whole composition, and you released it in a way that made it likely people would just download your mockup instead of buying the original, then you might not be able to claim fair use. But if you just mock up a portion of the original composition, and it's used in a video, a podcast, or an essay (or forum post!) that is clearly educational (or, per the statute, for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research"), and it's not meant to replace the original work in the market, you're fine. That's why, for example, the "Switched-On Pop" podcast can play portions of pop songs, and "Every Frame A Painting" can use clips from movies.

(This is all U.S. law, but I'd imagine it's pretty similar elsewhere.)
 
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kevthurman

Active Member
If it's for educational purposes, it's far more likely to be considered fair use. But there are other factors to consider, too, like:

the nature of the copyrighted work;

the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work​

So if you made a mockup that used the whole composition, and you released it in a way that made it likely people would just download your mockup instead of buying the original, then you might not be able to claim fair use. But if you just mock up a portion of the original composition, and it's used in a video, a podcast, or an essay (or forum post!) that is clearly educational (or, per the statute, for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research"), and it's not meant to replace the original work in the market, you're fine. That's why, for example, the "Switched-On Pop" podcast can play portions of pop songs, and "Every Frame A Painting" can use clips from movies.

(This is all U.S. law, but I'd imagine it's pretty similar elsewhere.)
Right, my plan was to take a few small excerpts, not even the full pieces or even the full orchestration. I think I'll just go for it and hope it's allowed as fair use (as I think it should be). If it doesn't I'll just stick to older, public domain scores as examples in the future.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
But what about a mockup that I make and only post here, for purely educational purposes, could I claim "fair use" for that?
One thing to note is that a copyright is not violated only when someone makes money from an unlicensed song; it's when they distribute it, even if it's just to one person. So whether you post the song here just for VI-C members to comment on, or try to sell it to the world on a bunch of websites, you have to make sure the song is either licensed or its distribution is clearly qualified under fair use.

Fair use is pretty obvious in some cases, but hazy and interpretive in others, and that's where you have to be careful. Personally, I would feel completely safe posting sections of a song here, interspersed with commentary/critique for educational purposes. But I would hesitate to post an uninterrupted song in its entirety. Maybe it's OK, but anytime fair use starts to get a little hazy and open to interpretation, I choose to play it safe.
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
If it's for educational purposes, it's far more likely to be considered fair use. But there are other factors to consider, too, like:

the nature of the copyrighted work;

the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work​

So if you made a mockup that used the whole composition, and you released it in a way that made it likely people would just download your mockup instead of buying the original, then you might not be able to claim fair use. But if you just mock up a portion of the original composition, and it's used in a video, a podcast, or an essay (or forum post!) that is clearly educational (or, per the statute, for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research"), and it's not meant to replace the original work in the market, you're fine. That's why, for example, the "Switched-On Pop" podcast can play portions of pop songs, and "Every Frame A Painting" can use clips from movies.

(This is all U.S. law, but I'd imagine it's pretty similar elsewhere.)
One thing to note is that a copyright is not violated only when someone makes money from an unlicensed song; it's when they distribute it, even if it's just to one person. So whether you post the song here just for VI-C members to comment on, or try to sell it to the world on a bunch of websites, you have to make sure the song is either licensed or its distribution is clearly qualified under fair use.

Fair use is pretty obvious in some cases, but hazy and interpretive in others, and that's where you have to be careful. Personally, I would feel completely safe posting sections of a song here, interspersed with commentary/critique for educational purposes. But I would hesitate to post an uninterrupted song in its entirety. Maybe it's OK, but anytime fair use starts to get a little hazy and open to interpretation, I choose to play it safe.
Thanks a lot! That cleared a few things up and I guess I finally have the excuse to not mock up whole songs for practice and just do parts of them, if I can't post the full ones here anyway :D.


It's hard to know what you can and can't do, when on one side you see whole bandcamp sites that heavily capitalize on similarity/hommage to existing brands, like here: https://alexroe.bandcamp.com/
(and apparently the IP owners chose to let it slide because I can't imagine that none of them heard of it because some of his youtube content cracks the million views mark) and on the other side nintendo is cracking down on small time local events like this:
http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2015/10/the_pokemon_company_sues_fan_for_copyright_infringement_demands_usd4000_in_damages
 

alexballmusic

Active Member
As others are saying, it's classed as a cover and so it's the publishing rights in the composition that are applicable.

On my remakes on YouTube they've been automatically recognised and I'm not eligible to monetize those videos, but they're allowed.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
It's hard to know what you can and can't do, when on one side you see whole bandcamp sites that heavily capitalize on similarity/hommage to existing brands, like here: https://alexroe.bandcamp.com/
(and apparently the IP owners chose to let it slide...
Similarity/homage in itself is not a copyright violation. I checked out one of Alex Roe's albums, and in his album description he wrote phrases like "original music inspired by..." and "I was inspired to write..." so assuming he is not violating any copyrights, he would then be the IP owner his tracks.

About a year ago, there was a thread about a composer (whose name I am withholding because they have since become a VI-Control member) who posted an "original" song online which was nearly a clone of another composer's song. It wasn't note-for-note, but close enough to it that it drew criticism from some people. (If I'm not mistaken, the composer later re-categorized the song as a derivation or cover.) I have no idea how close Alex Roe's originals are to the music that inspired him, but as long as he is not copying the music's melodies, lyrics, or too many other multiple simultaneous elements, he should be OK.

I checked out the NintendoLife article. [By the way, that webpage attempted to set about 200 cookies on my PC.] The article is a good example of what can happen when you play the odds. Somebody has to be the person who gets caught, and this time it was the cafe owner. He was ignorant for what he did, but also very lucky because he raised enough money on GoFundMe to pay the damages awarded to Pokemon.
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
I'm not a lawyer(so take everything I say with fist fulls of salt), but...
afaik there are (at least) 3 big things that need to be differentiated: copyright, trademark, and patents. Copyright is the most clear cut - did someone straight up copy something. Trademark is "can an idiot in a hurry confuse this thing by company A for being associated with the more popular company B". And patents are a jungle of patents on specific implementation of technical things and every huge company that produces anything tries to patent as much stuff as they can because they basically can't produce anything themselves without infringing on on patents by other companies, so they need their own patents as ammo for when they get sued so they can get a better out of court settlement. Example: Nintendo has a patent on the classic " '+' shaped d-pad": https://patents.google.com/patent/US4687200 (which afaik is the reason why the d-pad on sony controllers is split in the middle), but sony sued nintendo and microsoft over these:
https://www.engadget.com/2006/08/04/microsoft-and-nintendo-keep-up-with-sony-get-sued-for-controlle/

Also I know a guy whose published book was pulled from the market because another publisher had a design patent on books of that specific size and format...

I checked out the NintendoLife article. [By the way, that webpage attempted to set about 200 cookies on my PC.] The article is a good example of what can happen when you play the odds. Somebody has to be the person who gets caught, and this time it was the cafe owner. He was ignorant for what he did, but also very lucky because he raised enough money on GoFundMe to pay the damages awarded to Pokemon.
Sorry about the cookies, I hope it didn't cause any trouble! I tried to pick the least shady looking site, but using adblock myself and not having accepted their site cookies (not sure if non-EU users even get the choice) I didn't notice anything bad.

Afaik there was an update to the story later where Nintendo retracted the offer of settling out of court for the fairly low 4k$ dollars because he stirred up so much bad PR for them, but I can't find a good source.

Similarity/homage in itself is not a copyright violation. I checked out one of Alex Roe's albums, and in his album description he wrote phrases like "original music inspired by..." and "I was inspired to write..." so assuming he is not violating any copyrights, he would then be the IP owner his tracks.
That is correct (though afaik on one he calls it "remix of X and Y" (songs from the game), which might be yet another thing, but I didn't look into it)! I didn't even compare the music, because the thing that I think he's infringing on is trademark, by using the names of the inspirations, down to using the same fonts, similar artwork and similar words on the covers. Like "Borne in Blood" (album) vs "Bloodborne" (game). I've asked someone who studied law (but ended up not practicing as a lawyer) if hypothetically I could make a kickstarter campaign for a game and say "I made this game because I always was a huge fan of _famous-old-game_", and he advised against it, confirming my suspicion that any mention of anyone else's trademark in any context of promoting your own original IP, is not allowed. And trademarks are often more aggressively defended because there is legal incentive to do so, because if you don't you get on a slippery slope towards your trademark turing generic ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_trademark#Trademark_erosion ), an example from the article would be "Aspirin" in the US.

I have no idea how close Alex Roe's originals are to the music that inspired him, but as long as he is not copying the music's melodies, lyrics, or too many other multiple simultaneous elements, he should be OK.
I have no problem with the guy and I wish him well. If I personally didn't see legal and ethical issues with selling this kind of "hommage music", I'd do it too, it's a cleverly picked niche. I just can't imagine this being legally safe, if he hasn't some kind of legal agreement with the trademark owners that I don't know about. From the perspective of the owners of the original IP and trademark I would assume they're weighing the potential legal threat of "trademark erosion" against the definitve threat of immediate bad PR for sueing one of their big fans. Personally I think a straight up cover version with paying the appropriate licencing fees would be a lot safer legally.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
I don't actually know what Alex Roe is doing, because I'm not familiar with whomever's music to which he is paying homage. I just assumed he is a fan of a certain type of music and/or specific band, and is creating original but similar-sounding music and similar-looking artwork. A musician can freely imitate the instrumentation and musical style of another band as long as they're not infringing on that band's copyrights or trademarks.


using the names of the inspirations, down to using the same fonts, similar artwork and similar words on the covers. Like "Borne in Blood" (album) vs "Bloodborne" (game).
In that case, it sounds to me like he is definitely toeing the line. If he were mimicking a musical style, an artwork style, and a song titling style, he'd be fine. But if he's allegedly copying the same fonts and design layouts as the other band, and it's obvious that his chosen song names are more than coincidental, and his pairing of songs, titles, and artwork are more than coincidental, and his songs are almost carbon copies of the band's originals, then he could be walking on a very slippery slope. Under those circumstances, any judge, juror or any other competent human could compare his material with the original band's material and see the blatant ripping off taking place. His only defense in court would be a crack lawyer who knows the letter of the law, because the spirit of the law could find him guilty in a heartbeat. [Disclaimer: I am describing a hypothetical situation. I have no idea what Alex Roe is actually doing.]


(though afaik on one he calls it "remix of X and Y" (songs from the game)
Then we just have to give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he is licensing those songs as covers.


confirming my suspicion that any mention of anyone else's trademark in any context of promoting your own original IP, is not allowed.
I wouldn't say "confirming" but rather "supporting", since he is not a practicing lawyer. I'm no expert here either, but this sounds like another gray area. In the VI world, virtual versions of trademarked instruments obviously cannot use the name or logo of the instrument, but I don't think there's ever been a problem (at least not in the U.S.) of a developer making a reference to the trademarked instrument as source of inspiration. Referencing trademarked products in text, without having to pay royalties, has always been legal. I can't imagine that Alex Roe saying "I was inspired by Band XYZ" would in itself violate anything.


Afaik there was an update to the story later where Nintendo retracted the offer of settling out of court for the fairly low 4k$ dollars because he stirred up so much bad PR for them, but I can't find a good source.
That makes a lot more sense, since it most assuredly cost Nintendo more than $4,000 just to have one of their lawyers look into it.
 
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