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TOPIC: What is considered a derivative work?

What is considered a derivative work? 1 year 5 months ago #1

  • Russell Palmer
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Hello,
In most of the soundfont licenses, reference is made to 'derivative works'. I have tried to find a more specific definition of what this actually means but cannot find anything conclusive. I can envisage various 'levels' of 'derivativeness'. Are the following all considered derivative works as far as licenses are concerned :
1) A new soundfont derived from an existing soundfont
2) A midifile that uses a particular soundfont
3) An mp3 file (or other digital format that renders extraction of the soundfont technically impossible) recorded using the soundfont
4) An mp3 file (or other digital format...) recorded using various soundfonts, one of which has a restrictive license
5) A live performance using a particular soundfont

I am mostly interested to know if a 'personal use' licenced soundfont could be used as part of a live performance or to produce music tracks for commercial games / films without explicit permission. I am familiar with text font licenses where restrictive licenses are no longer relevant when a font is rendered as a bitmap within an image... I am wondering if a similar distinction applies for soundfonts?

Just to be clear, I am not trying to get out of asking for permission or paying commercial fees... I just want to know how careful I need to be about making a note of which licenses apply to which soundfonts!

Thanks in advance,
Russell
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What is considered a derivative work? 7 months 2 weeks ago #2

  • Davy
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If a license doesn't allow the use of a soundfont for any commercial purpose, this includes a live performance using this soundfont. For freely using it you need a license from the author of this soundfont.

This is the same for commercial fonts. You can use them for your own purpose but as soon as it becomes public, in a poster or anything that could advertise a business, you need to ask / pay for a license first.

www.legalzoom.com/articles/what-are-deri...-under-copyright-law
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What is considered a derivative work? 4 months 4 weeks ago #3

  • mirabilos
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My opinion, as an Open Source professional, and the predominating opinion across soundfont maintainers in Debian is:

1) A new soundfont derived from an existing soundfont

Clearly a derivative work.

2) A midifile that uses a particular soundfont

Not a derivative work. The MIDI file just contains indexes into the soundfont, not the soundfont (samples and mixing/modulating instructions) itself.

3) An mp3 file (or other digital format that renders extraction of the soundfont technically impossible) recorded using the soundfont

A derivative work of the soundfont because it is a derivative work of at the very least the samples.¹

4) An mp3 file (or other digital format...) recorded using various soundfonts, one of which has a restrictive license

Because of the answer to ③ above, this is the same as linking code under various licences together into one binary. Therefore, the waveform produced using multiple soundfonts must honour the licences of all the soundfonts combined, and these soundfonts must make that possible.

5) A live performance using a particular soundfont

The live performance is playback of a waveform, which (see ③ above) is a derivative work.

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¹) There is opinion in the MuseScore forums that this is not a derivative of the soundfont. I am convinced this opinion does not stem from any legal review but from the sudden shock over realising that the default MuseScore soundfont is MIT licenced, and the MIT licence requires the copyright and licence notice to be “included in all copies or substantial portions” of the work in question. I consider this opinion harmfully wrong but did not manage to convince the handful of contributors thinking this or that “the original Fluid (R3) soundfont author could not possibly have meant this when publishing under the MIT licence” (which, indeed, is not well-suited to soundfonts as-is, but SOL).

Incidentally, it was my request for MuseScore to embed the soundfont metadata into the waveform it generates (something for WAV, ID3 tag for MP3, and something for Ogg Vorbis) for proper licence compliance, something I, as Debian Developer, am trained to spot and found missing.

(As a side note, new contributions to MuseScore_General are generally (hah!) under Ⓕ CC0 or taken from confirmed PD material, in the hope of eventually being able to have a really free default soundfont covering most of GM at hand. The distribution contains a CSV listing sample sources, and the new soundfont designer manages the instructions attached to these samples as CC0 as well, but the samples and instructions inherited from Fluid (R3) Mono are MIT-licenced.)

I tried to patch the software to collect the soundfont information and output ID3, at first, but the collecting (considering MuseScore contains *two* synthesisers, one for SF2/SF3, one for SFZ, can have an optional third, etc.) turned out to be impossible through all the object-oriented layers it has, or would have required deeper changes than were comfortable at that time (plus they’re working on mu͒4 which is, again, a different codebase, now). So, no solution there yet.

(“information” here basically means the filename (basename) and almost all the INFO chunks; INAM (so we know which one it is, often with version), ICRD (because why not), IENG and ICOP (which often contain copyright information that needs to be retained), and ICMT (which I personally² put the entire licence into so licence compliance is made easy by just copying this chunk; this is the only one in which it would even fit, and the reason that Polyphone 2.3 supports UTF-8 for the ICMT chunk, as we have possibly foreign names in Kanji or so in the copyright statements).

²) For Debian packaging, I also do this as part of the “compilation” process: put the relevant info from debian/copyright into the ICMT chunk (and make sure the debian/copyright file contains all relevant info from the soundfont itself).

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For my own site www.mirbsd.org/music/free/ I just collect the information from the one soundfont installed (default soundfont) and, while doing this anyway, the score itself, put that into XML format (the .meta.xml files also uploaded there because why not) and embed it into the PDF (Poppler pdfattach), MP3 (ID3 tag) and MIDI (which, like PDF, does not need the soundfont copyright but trimming it just for that one file was more of a bother so I skipped doing that; had I done only PDF and MIDI, I would not have added them, but since I also did waveform, I did).

If you have more than one soundfont installed, you need to combine information from these used for a particular file, of course. I’ve prepared for having more than one in the XML formal I use but haven’t had reason to implement this yet; figuring out which soundfonts are played is the hard part in the first place anyway.

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IANAL, TINLA. But I’ve worked with Open Source and Open Knowledge/Data/OERs for over two decades now and have authored an Open Source/Knowledge/Data licence (which has been approved by all the various Open and/or Free institutions), I am the project lead of a small BSD project and a full-fledged, all tests passed, Debian Developer. I’m also the “OSS licence compliance” guy at $dayjob workplace.
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