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The Place Of Modern MIDI Music? 261

-1-Lone_Eagle writes "With the free availability of literally thousands of MIDI files on the Internet, and increasingly powerful home desktop systems and software, virtually anyone can take a MIDI file and using a program such as GarageBand or Reason create a near-studio-quality rendition of their favorite song. This opens up an interesting discussion, is a remixed MIDI file an original creation? Or is it simply a copied work with the rights belonging to the original author? Is it piracy? What do you think?"
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The Place Of Modern MIDI Music?

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  • But if they DO belong to the original owner, who would the rights for the song my 56k modem plays belong to?
    • Hmm... it would belong to ITU-T, assuming that it's a v.90 modem :D
    • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @01:25PM (#14015837)
      The only real advantage of MIDI over audio files like MP3 or OGG is that the actual notes being played can be learned when viewing the MIDI file through a notation program. The best notation software that I've used is MIDIsoft Studio4 even though it's ten years old.

          Notation software takes the MIDI file and displays it as sheet music. If you can read music (and anyone who can learn C can learn to read music) then you can learn how to play really complicated songs this way. Guitar Tab text files usually only give you simple and often wrong chord changes. Anything beyond G-Em-C-D (I-VIm-IV-V - the progression used in thousands of 1950s-1970s songs) is going to be hard to figure out for non-professionals just sitting down with a guitar and a recording. Almost all older songs have their most complicated chord structures and arpeggios mapped out into MIDI by musically-proficient fans. All the songs played on 'classic rock' FM stations can be learned this way. This is also a great way to learn big-band era stuff from the 1940s and even how older European classical music works. Mozart and Tchaikovsky (the Nutcracker Suite, etc...) can be learned even if you don't have access to the sheet music scores from a library or music store.

          MIDI files played into synthesizers, even newer GM synths, don't sound very good even when they have been expertly constructed. It's a fact. There are too many nuances to the playing technique that don't get encoded into the MIDI file. The synths aren't really all that great either. Purely electronic ambient music works like Brian Eno and Steve Roach have a much better chance of being recreated from MIDI files fed into advanced synths. But the idea that a modern pop song can be recreated by MIDI should not be taken seriously. Synths can't reproduce standard instruments like electric guitars and saxophones realistically.

          A number of sheet music publishers are trying to get all MIDI files removed from the web. This is short-sighted and cruel on their part. MIDI files encourage people to learn to read and play music far more better than anything that the music publishers could do to develop this market. With music classes being dropped extensively from American public schools, anything that teaches people to interact with printed music scores is a positive thing.

        It just sucks that music classes are being dropped by stupid uncultured brain-dead public school administrators (is there any other type?). And to drop music classes for more algebra? Insane. Most people listen to music every single day; very few people ever use algebra after high school. The priorities of the public schools are completely wrong. It's a tragedy.
  • by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:03AM (#14014528) Journal
    GarageBand and/or Reason for Windows or GNU/Linux?

    It would be nice to know of equivalents that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for.
    • Well, sorta (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:26AM (#14014568)
      There are free sequencers and samplers. However that's only half the battle, I mean if you get a Creative X-Fi you have a reasonable sampler right there. The real problem is in samples. I can take a MIDI and do two renderings for you using the same software. One will sound damn near real, the other will sound cheesy. The only difference will be the samples used.

      Free samples that are any good are much harder to come by. There are plenty of free soundfounts, but many are quite bad and non I've seen are near what you get with good ample packs. Also, a large number out there that are free did no checking on the legality of what they are using. So you may get a free sample you like, but it may actually be ripped off from somewhere else and not legit.

      Unfortunately in the good sample arena, I'm not aware of any non arm n' leg solutions. You just seem to get what you pay for. If you pay $200 for an orchestral set, it'll be pretty good. If you pay $2000 for one, it'll sound almost perfect. If you pay nothing for it, it'll sound fake and may not even be legit.
      • Of course, no matter what samples you use, it'll sound cheezy if you're not a good MIDI composer. I've heard some MIDI music files on my old Gravis Ultrasound that were unbelievable, and it was a 6MB patch set of consumer quality. And I've heard terrible - *terrible* MIDI renditions on a multi thousand dollar MIDI station.

        But if you put the two together - great composer and great patch sets - you'll quickly believe that MIDI is still alive and strong. Not to mention it's uses as a controller bus.
        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:50AM (#14014628)
          If you are doing an orignal composition and you compose for your samples then it works well. I mean hell, the SNES songs were 64kb all said and done between music and (compressed) samples.

          However it's one thing to be doing an orignal work, it's another to try and do a "studio quality" rendition of an existing peice. No matter how good a composer you are, a little 1MB piano sample is going to sound, well, fake. You aren't going to fool anyone for the real thing. without a couple hundred MB sample at least.

          Both are laudable goals. I am a huge fan of music done on older technologies (espically game music, hence the remasters I do) and I have a big collection of MOD (and derivitive) files. However it's a real different challenge to try and make a rendition of a MIDI that sounds like it was done with real isntruments than to compose an orignal MIDI to sound cool using a given sample set.

          It's a different kind of MIDI programming even. I find that often, some of the best sounding MIDIs on my SoundCanvas translate the worst when played with higher grade samples. They are designed with certian assumptions in mind that just aren't valid and would need ot be redone. However some of the ones that come of as cheesy end up sound pretty damn good when you throw a few GB of samples at them.

          A lot of it depends how close your samples are to the ones the composer used. For example the Edirol songs sound the very best on my SoundCanvas. No supprise, that was the hardware they were composed on.
          • by CausticPuppy ( 82139 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @11:07AM (#14015262) Homepage
            It seems like MIDI discussion come up every so often on Slashdot.

            First, a couple things to get cleared up:

            MIDI is just a serial protocol, nothing more. It's been around since the early 80's. The protocol defines 128 MIDI notes, on 16 channels, and 128 controllers that have values of 0 - 127. That's basically it, along with a few other things like channel change and bank change messages. MIDI itself does not define any instruments, because MIDI is used to control non-instrument devices like effects boxes too.

            Now, when most normal computer people think of MIDI, what they are actually thinking of is GM or "General MIDI." GM defines a standard set of instruments, for example instrument 1 is always a piano, instrument 74 is always a flute, etc.
            It's up to the hardware or software to actually implement these instruments, usually done with wavetable samples. The idea is that a MIDI file played through any "GM compatible" device will sound roughly the same on any other GM device, although the quality of the samples varies widely. Roland's GS is an extension of GM.

            GM used to be used for games primarily (think Doom1 and Doom2!) but has fallen by the wayside now that everybody is using full audio tracks for music.

            But most of the music created for video games these stays was still created using MIDI! The file format is specific to the studio application, but MIDI is still used internally to communicate with various synthesizers and samplers including virtual synths that run on the local machine.
            So if you were to get the original data files, you would need to also have the sample libraries-- which are VERY high quality, and can cost several thousand dollars. And you need to be using software that works with these libraries, which rules out free/OSS software-- you're gonna NEED something like Sonar, Logic Audio, etc.

            Almost all video games and most TV shows that have symphonic music are actually MIDI based, but use enormous sample libraries like EastWest [] symphony orchestra. In fact I believe that the Return to Castle Wolfenstein soundtrack was created mostly with that sample library.

            Other examples, the "fire baby" sequence in The Incredibles is created with Voices of the Apocalypse [] so even realistic choirs can be created using MIDI.

            You don't have to spend THAT much though-- the libraries I use the most are Storm Drum [] and Garritan Personal Orchestra [], both of which are very affordable but good enough that they are often used in hollywood. All of these are plugins that can be used in many different software packages on both OSX and Windows, but not linux that I'm aware of.

            So, nowadays MIDI is still an integral part of even the most modern studios, but General MIDI is nowhere in sight. GM still has a place in cell phone ringers.
            • Even for $200, Garritan Personal Orchestra has some of the lowest quality I've ever heard in this kind of a commercial sample library. Honestly, how does that company get this much positive accolade? Sure, some of their solo instruments (violins, piano, harps) sound pretty good, but many of the other instruments do not (the brasses are atrocious!!!). And when you play them all together, it REALLY brings out the crapyness of the weaker samples.

              For $200, you should stick to EastWest (which you cited) and thei
              • Yeah, I'd agree mostly with what you say. The Brass samples are good except for the trumpet sounds. I like the trombones and tuba.

                I think GPO gets a lot of press because it's easy to use. Finale [] now comes with a version. However, the system requirements for GPO are insane. I can't get more than 5 or 6 samples playing on my 2.5 Gigahertz Athlon. And that is when it's being slaved from my Mac.

                EastWest has a great samples as well. Of course, Native Instruments has some excellents sounds as well.

            • Yes, I'm fully aware of the technical details of MIDI, including the fact that MIDI is a transport, and General MIDI is a definition of a standard for instrumentation.

              I'll say "MIDI Song" or "MIDI Music" because everyone knows what I'm talking about. It's not correct, however, to assume that all MIDI music is General MIDI, of course.

              So thanks for clearing all that up but asfofar I don't think it was necessary.
          • No matter how good a composer you are, a little 1MB piano sample is going to sound, well, fake.

            But some composers embrace the fakeness of a 12 KB toy piano sample and make something like this [].

          • Samples, yes, you need huge file sizes for it to work well.

            Wavetable synthesis, however, you don't.

            The idea behind wavetable synthesis is to take short samples- one cycle of the waveform- for different stages of the sound. Loop and manipulate them appropriately.

            This can get extremely close to the sound of a real instrument with an extremely small amount of data compared to sampling. This also has the benefit that it can cleanly adjust to different note lengths with the ADSR cycle intact. You aren't tryin
            • Samples, yes, you need huge file sizes for it to work well.

              Wavetable synthesis, however, you don't.

              The idea behind wavetable synthesis is to take short samples- one cycle of the waveform- for different stages of the sound. Loop and manipulate them appropriately.

              The reason for this form of synthesis is to conserve memory.

              These days, every sampler that I know of is capable of this form of wavetable synthesis. It's standard. There will be an attack sample, a sustain sample (which can be looped), and a relea
    • Rosegarden on Linux has enough of the functionality required to assign parts to instruments. There are plenty of free midi players for Windows and Linux, but they give you less control over modification of instrument assignments and so on that might make the difference between an adequate rendition and one that is 'studio quality'.
    • []

      Linux MultiMedia Studio - "...aims to be a free alternative to popular (but commercial and closed- source) programs like FruityLoops, Cubase and Logic giving you the ability of producing music with your computer by creating cool loops, synthesizing and mixing sounds, arranging samples, having more fun with your MIDI-keyboard and much more."
    • You could probably do something loop-based by loading loops into a soundfont, and using fluidsynth and a sequencer like seq24.

      You might want to look at DSSI [], the Disposable Soft Synth Interface, which is kind of the Linux version of VST. It doesn't do quite as much as VST does but the programming interface is not quite as Byzantine and perverse.

      Shameless plug: I've written a couple of DSSI synths, based on Xsynth-DSSI []. One is a kind of wavetable synth, and one is a TB303-style monosynth. You can get them
    • Not free, but if you want to support good shareware, try n-Track Studio []. It's more focused on the recording thing (n-Track as in an extension of a Four-track), but it does have MIDI functionality. For a ~$50 program, it stands up to the big boys (Cubase & Co.) remarkably well. It has more than enough power and features for most people not doing anything professional. Best of all, it's not crippled in any artificial way (number of tracks, effects, etc. is limited only by your hardware), and the author is
  • not piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by allanj37 ( 930520 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:03AM (#14014529)
    It's not like these midi files are going to take away sales from the artists. "Oh, no, I'm not going to buy that cd. I've already got the midi." But, if I heard a really good midi song, it might get me to buy the cd.
    • Re:not piracy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sirch ( 82595 )
      Funny, a lot of people say/said that about MP3... And does the RIAA listen? No.

      Not that I think MIDI is particularly worrying to music publishers... Presumably it's in the same legal area as guitar tabs (eg OLGA) and other music transcriptions? What about transcribing lyrics?
    • While I agree with the sentiment, just because it wouldn't do any harm doesn't make it legal. If you duplicate a song, be it in MIDI or otherwise, it's still copywrited and not legal to distribute in any form. Of course, all it takes is a few modifications to sheet music and it's no longer the same song, but if you go for a "as close as you can get with MIDI" rendition, you're probably infringing.
    • Re:not piracy (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Work is a work is a work.

      There are two distinct sets of rights - publishing rights and mechanical rights.

      Whoever writes the song owns the publishing rights until such time as they sign their rights away to the publishing arm of a label (which is required for most deals for a limited time, e.g. 3-5 years, or life, or beyond the grave, or whatever). These rights cover the song itself, and includes the melody and lyrics, but does not include the chord progression. The publishing rights prohibit pretty much a
      • So it's like The Beatles. Michael Jackson owns the publishing rights (well, half of the publishing rights from what I understand as Sony owns the other half in some weird deal he did for cash) but the mechanical rights still belong to The Beatles...meaning the original recordings, right?

        Thought I like what John Lennon said about all this: "Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."
        • Re:not piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @08:54AM (#14014927)
          I like what John Lennon said about all this: "Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."

          Well, then, he sure was quick to make millions and millions of dollars off of "everybody's" possesion. That luxury apartment in New York wasn't free, and Yoko Ono is pretty high-maintenance.

          For a guy that sang "imagine no possessions," it's hard not to notice that he retained his IP rights and the cash.
    • After researching this for a project I just completed, you do need to compensate the copyright owners. Techincally, when you create a Midi of a song, and put it out on the net, it qualifies as a performance, which the copyright holders are entitled to get $.08 cents a song for.

      Of course, chord changes to a song do not count. Anything that has the MELODY. So, you could make a Midi of everything except the melody, and put that out there. I don't believe that is a problem. The copyright issue is when you assoc

  • by n0dalus ( 807994 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:03AM (#14014531) Journal
    ... create a near studio quality rendition of their favorite song.

    Maybe I've missed something big, but I didn't know such amazing vocal support was built into MIDI formats. I guess I could always put the lyrics in and let Microsoft Sam (tm) sing it for me, but I'd rather die a horrible, horrible death.
  • by Arioch of Chaos ( 674116 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:03AM (#14014532) Journal
    Well, legally it is probably both. It is probably a copy of the original work, meaning that you're not allowed to distribute your remix. It is also probable that you will have a copyright in the remixed version. I.e. no one will dare distribute anything. ;-)
    • Well, I am an audio engineer and have had a couple of upper level copyright law courses in college.

      The way I understand it, you don't have the right to make a mechanical copy of that song. In otherwords, the original songwriter/composer has NOT given you the right to record that song using either live or sequenced instruments.

      Now, once that song has been recorded once, he must authorize you to be able to make a recording of it if you want to. The statutory rate I believe is $.08/copy distributed. So, if Emi
  • As far as I remmember (but I could remmember false) there is copyright on all part of the song (tunes, voice, lyrics etc...). Reproducing the tune as MIDI and distributing on internet would be infrigement. Now on the other hand if you keep it for yourself (family/friends) you are safe.
    • You are ignoring the fact that there exists a few hundred years worth of music in the public domain - not to mention the more modern stuff released under liberal licenses.

      The RIAA doesn't own all music, you know...

  • I think this issue is ambiguous enough that it will be in the best interests of studios to sue independent "midi remixers". Who would be willing to risk losing enough money to retire on and a jail sentence [] by actually taking it to trial? No... settlements from this will just be one more revenue stream for the bad guys.
  • Isn't it obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kentrel ( 526003 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:13AM (#14014547) Journal
    I'm not sure Slashdot is the place to even ask a question like this. No, taking a midi file of Tubular Bells and sampling in real instruments does not make it an "original creation". Really, did you think for a second it even might be?

    Even if the original work is out of copyright, for example Beethoven's works, the rights to the "notation or manuscript" is owned by whoever printed or published it, since classical music can be notated in different ways according to different interpretations. This goes for any piece of music. Also, the midi file, even of an out of copyright piece of music is the intellectual property of the author. I've created my own versions of several pieces of classical music, made them available on the internet and I've noticed in the years since I've come across those files under different names. It's the same midi I made, just someone has put their own name as author\tracker in the file. It's not cool.

  • a few thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

    by INfest8 ( 930521 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:15AM (#14014548)
    1. MIDI files are often not produced by the copyright owner. Therefore, the underlying song composition is owned by the copyright owner(s) (i.e. publisher and composer); 2. The arrangement *might* be copyrightable by the MIDI programmer. 3. The US Copyright Office equates MIDI files with audio media(!); 4. If anyone remembers the Negativland / U2 debacle - one of the versions Negativland produced and was sued for was in fact running from a MIDI file; 5. Copyright owners were pretty strict about people distributing MIDI files: One webmaster states she received a letter from the Harry Fox Agency in December 1999 demanding the removal of offending MIDI files. The HFA also contacted the ISP which temporarily suspended the website until the files were removed. Web Thumper's MIDI Site, a popular source for MIDI files was permanently shut down following a copyright dispute.
  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:20AM (#14014558)
    In music you have copyright on a particular recording of a song, which is what you get sued for infringing upon when filesharing. In addition you have copyright on the song itself - the lyrics, melody, composition, etc. If you look at the liner notes for a CD you will see something like "Copyright CrooksR'US Records. All rights reserved". This is the copyright notice for the recording. You often see names listed by each song, or a note to the effect of "All songs written by Your Favorite Band". This is attributing who wrote the song. This person (people) get royalties on all performances (including bar cover-bands), and recordings of the song, not just this specific recording.

    This would clearly be infringing on the second copyright (on the song), but not the first (on the recording).
  • by smilinggoat ( 443212 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:22AM (#14014562) Homepage Journal
    MIDI, the Musical Instrumant Digital Interface, merely sends instructions for an instrument (could be a synthesizer or a sampler or any number of other devices) to then create sound. There is no actual audio. MIDI data can be represented in many different forms, be it a list of instruction in hexadecimal, a matrix of controller values, or even as printed sheet music. Asking whether or not a MIDI "remix" or re-writing is an original creation is similar to asking whether or not someone who takes previously written sheet music and transcribes it and changes it is creating a new work.

    It all depends on the level of art and interpretation in the work (think about Cage [], for instance, and his work in creating scores from astronomical maps) and the legalities. I cannot comment on the legalities of rewriting music, as I am just a musician and an engineer, not a lawyer.

    As far as I know, it is not illegal to transcribe audio into sheet music, which is basically what one does when creating a MIDI file from digital (or analog) audio.
    • by DannyO152 ( 544940 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @10:02AM (#14015079)

      Midi files are like player piano rolls, which are publications of performances and copyrightable. (Some of the arcane ways used to delineate the available copyrights for music makes more sense when one realizes that at the time pop music took off, the late 19th century and early 20th, it was the quantity of sheet music and player piano rolls sold which made a song a "hit.")

      As for doing transcriptions, fair use allows one to do that for personal use, but xeroxing sheet music or scores and/or selling your transcription infringes on rights held by the publisher for works still in copyright. Remember getting "Real Books," which were sold under the counter to working musicians who needed an inexpensive, publisher agnostic collection of standards for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and casual gigs? There was a reason it was under the counter.

      Incorporating significant portions of someone else's midi-transcribed performance would make one's work a derivative work, and licensing of the midi information from its rights holder would be required. Now, doing a live peformance which incorprated a pc playing someone else's midi files -- I would guess that requires a license. But a lot of this stuff is overlooked until someone starts making money from someone else's work. And no, I am not a lawyer.

      • I don't remember the "real books" -- but I do remember "fake books". In fact, I own a couple. Were the Fake Books also produced without licensing from ASCAP / BMI / SOCAN? Is that why my public library got rid of all of them in one of their recent book sales? Interesting. I picked 'em all up, because I think they're just dandy for setting up musical frameworks for songs, but leave you plenty of room to riff on them however you want.
      • My subject line actually is derived from an interesting article I read ages ago on a legal website. (I wish I could remember now where it was.) Viewed in a utilitarian way, a file/stream/CD/DVD or any other digital rendering of a work is essentially a set of instructions to a device to reproduce the work. Taking this even further, one can consider the entire file/stream/CD/DVD to be a single integer. While I'm not suggesting there isn't a great deal of skill and artistry to "find the integer" that creates
  • Why not... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:31AM (#14014580)
    If I have a laser printer and a computer, and manually copy a book by typing it into my favorite word processor, i'll be able to print a nearly equal quality rendition of the book - but that doesn't make me the author. In the case of a MIDI it's the same, the author rights of the original composition still lie with the composer.

    [v]irtually anyone can take a midi file and using a program such as Garage Band or Reason create a near studio quality rendition of their favorite song
    Technically, that's true. If it's going to be any good, however, *still* depends on talent, sensitivity and hard work. Never mind great soundfonts, and great software, if you don't know how to use them or lack the patience to endlessly tweak things until they sound just right, it's never going to sound as good as the original.

    The people at (formerly) Media Ventures do some absolutely stunning stuff with MIDI, software and synthesizers. Ever listened to the soundtrack of "The Thin Red Line"? Some parts are MIDI/synthesizers. Some are real orchestra. Can you tell the difference? Hint: no. Can you reproduce it in equal quality? Sure, if you have the correct soundfonts, enough sensitivity, stacks of equipment and a lot of time on your hands. But it won't make you the composer of the work.

    That said, unless planning to unjustly rip off the hard work of other people, I don't see why one would want to call a MIDI rendition of an original work "their own composition". Why not simply give credit where credit is due?
  • by Lord Satri ( 609291 ) <alexandreleroux@ ... minus poet> on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:32AM (#14014583) Homepage Journal
    This is not a complete list, but Reason and GarageBand are not free nor open source, so these links might be useful:

    - ardour, Digital Audio workstation / []
    - Rosegarden, audio and MIDI sequencer, score editor, and general-purpose music composition and editing environment / []
    - LilyPond, music notation / []
    - MusE MIDI/Audio sequencer / []
    - Audacity, music editing station / []
    - Music Theory (free, not oss): [] and []
    - general link: []

    Cheers :-)
    • Does anyone know if there's a good collection of free (as in speech) midi files? I found a classical archive from the University of Arizona, but most sites seem to be silent on the subject of copyright and attribution. Any pointers would be much appreciated.
  • The copyright on the piece of music belongs to the artist (or label). What you are doing is creating an arrangement of it, which still falls under the original copyright.

    I couldn't, for example, pick a Radiohead track then release my smash-hit ukulele'n'kazoo remix without expecting Radiohead's label to come knocking on the door*. It's just an arrangement of someone else's idea.

    (*or hordes of music fans to come baying for my blood...)


  • clippy mix (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:33AM (#14014587)
    < You have a MIDI. May I add the lyrics? >
            \     ____
             \   / __ \
              \  O|  |O|
                 ||  | |
                 ||  | |
                 ||    |

    % Y

    / There she was just a-shouting to the street     \
    | Singing: I want Word from Office from Microsoft |
    | Snapping her keyboard and shuffling her mouse   |
    | Singing: I want Word from Office from Microsoft |
    |                                                 |
    \ Want more?                                      /
            \     ____
             \   / __ \
              \  O|  |O|
                 ||  | |
                 ||  | |
                 ||    |
    % No, kthx.
  • ...or restricted to midi files. Plagiarism is the thing called. Romeo and Juliet is not an original work, its argument is closely based on awell-known (then) Italian medieval story, using even the same names. However, we can agreee that the good old Bard polished it a bit, adding value, not just translated from the italian. Every work must be so judged to determine if the added value is big enough. Midi files are no exception. The fact that the mixing is done with programs makes almost no difference. After
  • Publishing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:44AM (#14014616) Homepage Journal
    is a remixed midi file an original creation?
    No. Unless you wrote the song in the first place, you are simply doing a cover version. Most pop stars today don't write "their" songs either, hence the term "Performance Artist" or performer rather than musician or songwriter.
    Or is it simply a copied work with the rights belonging to the original author?
    Like I said, it's a cover version. The original author, label or others depending on contract owns the Publishing rights []. When you cover a song, you owe ASCAP, BMI [] and other fees. You may not realize it, but you will automagically owe those fees under US law.
    Is it Piracy?
    Of a sort, yes.
    What do the you think?
    I try not to... especially about today's music industry.

    • is a remixed midi file an original creation?

      No. Unless you wrote the song in the first place, you are simply doing a cover version.

      There's also something known as "arrangements". "Jazzman" made a very nice arrangement of the Final Fantasy theme (google for "Jazzman Originals"). There's a dance remix version of Pachelbel's Canon in D somewhere in P2P. Just because you have the "source" doesn't mean you can't add your own taste to it.

      Usually in these cases, the credits cover the o
    • When you cover a song, you owe ASCAP, BMI and other fees

      The interesting question is, when you cover a cover and pay the appropriate fees to ASCAP et al, how do they determine who to pay royalties to?

      E.g., consider the recent cover of the song "Light My Fire" by Will Young, which was a cover not of the original version by the Doors, but of another cover by Jose Feliciano.
  • Legal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @05:55AM (#14014636)
    IANAL but I did work in the mobile phone content world for a while (including ringtones) and I believe that producers who assert their rendition to the specific artist had to pay the appropriate rights society for each sale. Those that just said "this is 'baby one more time'" without mentioning Britney didn't have to.

    If creating your own midi files/ringtones was illegal then companies such as, musiwave and WES would not have been able to start out.

    (probably worth pointing out for the pedants that was bought by one of the big producers a couple of years ago and renamed to Arvato)

  • This may be a little off topic but certainly related :) I'm looking for a way to use custom samples with my keyboard, and I basically have two options. I either need a software sampler, or a way to make Akai S-1000/S-3000 programs, on Linux. Has anyone here faced a similar situation? Any help would be greatly appreciated :)
  • I've been buggin slash editors on several karaoke / tech related stories for a while now (yes I know, grousing about rejected submissions, blah blah) Still sort of ontopic, but the karaoke twist makes it more fun.

    Our bar pays Ascap/BMI/Sesac for the right to use backing tracks in a public/business enviroment. It's not just backing tracks we're paying for, we're paying for the rights to the composition.

    These 3 licensing agencies started years and years ago during the advent of the player piano. A player p
  • IANAL, and hardly anyone else here is either. So maybe slashdot isn't the place to ask questions about rights ownership and the legal nuances of piracy?
  • by The_Dougster ( 308194 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @06:14AM (#14014675) Homepage
    I use Linux with ALSA, and some large wavetable midi patch sets, and I can get absolutely great sound from midi's. Typically I author up my background tracks in midi, jack my electric guitar in analog, and jam away.

    Midi is definately copyrighted because its the same as sheet music. Whatever laws apply to sheet music apply to midi files because they are interchangable. Just because windows midi players suck and most people ignore these music files doesn't mean they can't be made to sound righteous and that they shouldn't be subject to the same copyright laws as written music. Thats all it is is sheet music and your midi synth is the orchestra that is playing the music for you. The better your synth the better the overall result.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    are you seriously asking the slashdot community for legal advice?
  • "using a program such as Garage Band or Reason create a near studio quality rendition of their favorite song"

    It's probably important to point out that while this holds true for songs that use 'real' instrument sounds - such as piano, strings, brass etc. - that are found in the General MIDI (GM) music set, it can't be said of music that primarily uses synthesized sounds as it's basis. So while you can churn out a reasonably passable rendition of Coldplay's 'Yellow', something like The Prodigy's 'Girls' end
  • I'm surprised that no one else has yet mentioned Nine Inch Nails [] release of The Hand That Feeds in Garage Band format [].

    "There are some copyright issues involved, so read the notice that pops up. Giving this away is an experiment. I'm interested to see what comes of it, what issues are raised and what the results are."

    Can't remember what the copyright notice said - I only tried it a couple of times. My mac was not really powerful enough for it to be much use but it was certainly an interesting idea.
  • On the surface, it seems that GarageBand is a nice application for recording and editing digital music. However, there is one gaping feature hole: although GarageBand can import MIDI files, it cannot export MIDI files [] ! This is vendor lock-in of the worst form. Once you work on something in GarageBand, all you can do is export it to AIFF format. It is impossible to turn it your recording into a MIDI cell-phone ringtone or process it further with other software. At least with Microsoft Word, the data

  • enjoy, don't worry (Score:2, Informative)

    by oooed ( 924922 )
    once the owner of a recorded work has had a go, anyone is allowed to cover it - but the owner (that's the creative person who had the idea, not someone who can write midi files) is entitled to their share of the proceeds. the record companies don't care if anyone remixes or covers or records/writes a midi file or writes up the dots for one of their hits - but if you make any money at it, you have to pay up. if your reworked version wakes up interest in an old hit, they are laughing too. tribute bands sur
  • I'm the founder of the Videogame Music Archive [], one of the largest online midi archives. We have a FAQ page which has an entry addressing this issue. For your reading pleasure:

    "What is a remix? What is this site's policy on them?" []

    A remix is any song that is intentionally altered to sound dramatically different than the original. An example of a remix would be the theme to Super Mario Bros. redone into a Death Metal/Techno song. Usually a remix involves changing notes, inserting new music in the middl

  • It's a derivative work, but unless you have permission from the copyright holders saying otherwise, full rights go to them.
  • This topic is just a stealth advertisement for the poster's crappy own "musichax" website. I'm not particularly opposed to someone trying to drum up some enthusiasm for their own project, whether it be a program or an interesting site, but for cripes' sake, show some honesty and integrity while doing so. Instead of just saying, "This opens up an interesting discussion" and trying to secretly lure us with one of your links, be up front about it and say, "I'm starting a new website with remixed midi tunes.
  • Piano Roll (Score:5, Informative)

    by glowworm ( 880177 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @08:45AM (#14014903) Journal
    The law on MIDI files directly draws on Piano Roll legislation. In particular the Compulsary Mechanical License.

    The original composer of the music holds all rights to the music until he signs it away to a music publisher. The original composer is important because copyright lasts for the entire life of the composer plus an additional 70 years. (Thanks to Disney and Sonny Bono)

    At this stage the Piano Roll maker is not allowed to transcribe it into mechanical (digital) form until he gets permission from the publisher - or - someone else performs it first.

    Once the copyright owner of a musical composition records and distributes the work to the public, or allows someone else to do so, anyone that wishes to record and distribute that same work may do so without permission (subject to certain limitations) by issuing the copyright owner a notice of intention to obtain a compulsory license. After that the only legal requirement is to pay a compulsory mechanical reproduction fee of 6.95 cents per copy to the publisher or their agent (Harry Fox - who license from 1,000 copies upwards).

    So, how does this apply to MIDI? Those "free" MIDI files you can download off the internet are only legal if someone else performed them first and if the creator of the MIDI file pays 6.95 cents for every download made.
  • ...from recording a cover version?

    In both cases, you're releasing a different recording of an existing piece of music. So although you wouldn't come up against the copyright in the recording, distribution would contravene the copyright inherent in the music itself. So unless you have permission from the publishers (or the music is out of copyright), you're leaving yourself open to All Sorts Of Trouble.

    Just like any other cover version.

  • How about an open source music site in which anyone can create a basic composition, upload the midi and samples, and let other people improve it?
  • Not the same. (Score:3, Informative)

    by OSXCPA ( 805476 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @10:08AM (#14015093) Journal
    When I made my living as a photographer, clients would gripe about the cost. "I could have my cousin Freddy shoot my wedding for free!" Well, when cousin Freddy did so, no surprise, he knew nothing about selecting the right gear for the job, even if he could afford it, and nothing about composition, lighting, etc. Recording is the same - you may have a great quality MIDI file. You may, as I do, rip mp3s of your favorite songs, import them to garage band and then replicate the drum track to the song a measure at a time, so you can then play your bass and guitar(s) over the beat and get a 'real' recorded version of the song. You could, like me, sound nothing like Metallica at all. Even if you did sound good, and there are Metallica tribute albums released by major studios that suck, your version would not be a threat to Metallicas.

    Besides, an artist, as I recall from a IP class I took (IANAL), has first recording rights to whatever they write. I write a song, I have all rights to it. As I recall, Bob Dylan once used this to deny himself permission to record a song of his. He was in a dispute with his record company, and this was the only way he could get around their demands legally - they could make him produce a record, but not one with content he did not have permission to use, and the songs had not yet been recorded by him or anyone else. Once recorded, however, anyone can cover the song - you can sell tickets to a performance by your band, "Metallica-Lite" and play all Metallicas songs, and sell CDs of your band doing so, but you can't represent yourselves to be Metallica.

    If you distribute commercially, you may have to pay royalties, and that seems kinda crappy, but I would think it would be 'a piece of the action' rather than a fixed amount - so if your Metallica tribute album sells 4 copies, you owe a percent of those four sales. I'd get a lawyer if you go that route...

    Short answer - replicate/remix/reproduce all you like - derivative works are just that - the property of the creator, unless they are so close to the original that they are identical, in which case, it is a replica and (as of now) illegal to sell/distribute without permission.

    My $.025 (inflation, y'know...)
  • an idea that nobody has been able to implement yet. Decompose the channels using AI and signal processing and sample them to provide a midi-like file in the output. I know it's possible because the human ear can recognize the different instruments in a song. Just by paying attention you are able to differenciate the signals.

    After the samples are played, the difference is stored, possibly in different levels to attain lossy compression.

    Human voice treatment would add some complexity: Besides frequency, you n
  • A midi file is much like a score. It contains instructions on what instrument in the midi synthesizer plays what note, for how long, and when.

    Distributing a midi file is like distributing a music score, and so likely an infringement if distributed without permission.

    Playing a midi file is like performing the music in that score, and so also likely an infringement depending on the circumstances.

    In this case, however, it would not be the RIAA to whom money is owed, because a midi is not a recording by a RIAA
  • Nowadays the creative part of music is not the sequence of tones but the samples and voices used. So if you ask me, melodies, rythms and harmonies should not be subject to copyright at all. I'm not sure about samples either, but propably it would not work out to give them to the public domain in general.

    BTW we've seen this question arise many years before in the golden age of MODs. You gotta love 'em, but almost none of them have vocals.

  • Sorry its blunt but that's what it is. It's the music that's copyrighted not the ink you use to transcribe it or the magnetic pulse or the dc voltage, it's the music, whatever the form of retention, production distribution or propagation you use, it's the end result that count.

    Music is copyrighted and reproduction is copyrighted, the first copyright means that however you reproduce said song, melody or musical work you have to obtain the rights for it. The second make sure that the recording, the effects us
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @11:53AM (#14015418) Journal
    I'vebeen engaged in making MIDI music since 1986 and have released a dozen CDs of my music, so I think I am qualified to discuss this issue to some degree. This would be a perfect time for me to advertise myself, but I don't believe in using slashdot that way, as I prefer the anonymity of being Ralph Spoilsport here - it allows me to make more provocative statements that might otherwise be out of character for my public persona as an artist. That said:

    MIDI data - at its most basic - records that a note is played (note on) the note location (pitch), the duration of said note, and the volume (often expressed in terms of note velocity) and that the note has stopped playing (note off). However, there are other pieces of data that can be transmitted, such as patch change up, patch change down, pitchbend, and data generated from continuous controllers such as modulation wheels.

    If you take a typical and ordinary piece of MIDI data, it only has detectible relation to a given piece of music if the note data is matched to tones produced by a synthesizer or sampler (or a computer program that functions as such) that permit the possibility of melody and harmony. If the tones are, for instance, Latin Percussion, and their is a different non-pitched tone for each note on the keyboard, one would be extremely hard pressed to detect that the MIDI data making it happen was derived of a particular song.

    MIDI note data, in point of fact, has NOTHING to do with the timbres generated by the end device, be it synth, sampler, and computer. Also, MIDI note data is easily dislodged from time, and it can be cut up, pasted, and used to trigger other MIDI generators (such as arpeggiators), and can also be subjected to randomisation and processing schemes.

    So, one could easily take some drippy POS tune from the likes of Celine Dion, delete entire ranges of its data, take a section that might be too slow but is interesting, loop it and play it at 400 beats per minute, and then have the remainder trigger an arpeggiator that then triggers some Big Beat Drum machine sounds or a selection of machine . I seriously doubt anyone would be able to tell whether it was pulled from Celine Dion or Britney Spears or Claude Debussey, because:

    Data that is used for pitch is not inherently tied to a pitched tone.

    MIDI can functionally resemble a piano roll, but only if a player piano plays it. If you remove the pitched instrument (the player piano) the data of the "piano roll" can be used to trigger other kinds of nonpitched events (a drum, an explosion, a "thwip", a car engine, a generator, or whatever sample you assign to a given key position, etc. etc. etc.) and thusly make a lot of interesting sounds. Also, the piano roll can be played backwards (i.e., MIDI data is easily processed.)

    Hence: the relationship between MIDI data and a given stream of MIDI data's copyright is actually rather problematic. Recreating a track by Celine Dion (or any other pointless musical product puked out by the music industry's star system) is an interesting academic exercise in MIDI programming, but it's not terribly creative. It would be much more interesting to mulch her MIDI data and make something interesting out of it.


  • Define (Score:2, Interesting)

    A song as a MIDI file is a cover, and simply that. Asking Is it piracy? is a ridiculous question, since piracy is a dumb word the entertainment industries use to refer to the infringement of their works' copyrights. Is it copyright infringement? is a valid question. That, of course, depends on whether or not you have the original artist's (or record company's) permission to sell or perform the song in question.

    Of course, MIDI files are hardly realistic. It's doubtful that any record company would consider

  • The combination of 'notes' and 'words' are copyrighted, along with the actual performance of the 'music'.

    Ever seen a book with sheet music in it?

May all your PUSHes be POPped.