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I want to sell MP3's

But they are really high quality converted midi, is this legal?

     
8:49 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

I want to set up a store on my site. Basically I want to sell classical music MP3's (Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, etc). I have the ability to convert MIDI into lifelike MP3's. So, in reality, even if the MP3 sounds lifelike, no one really performed it. Would it be legal to sell these MIDI to MP3 conversions? How would I make it legal?

Also, is it illegal to let people download MIDI files for free? Midi files are found freely on the internet anywhere. I download the files, and upload it to my site, I never thought there would be a problem with this file type, but now I am wondering.

Also, if no one really knows the answer, how can I find an answer to my questions?

Thanks for help.

8:51 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Unless you have copyright owner's permission to disribute converted MIDIs as MP3s you will violate copyright laws in pretty much any country. These days unless its your own recording its best to stay away from distribution of MP3s.
8:56 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Most of these midi files do not have any information attached to them. It is impossible to tell who edited the MIDI file in the first place. MIDI is weird, no one really puts a name to the file. Its like a free for all file format.
9:05 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This has nothing to do with format -- just because you can't establish who owns copyright does not mean its free for all. If you make profit from selling music that you do not own then you can be taken to the cleaners since it will be proven that you profited from copyright violation.

Bottom line is that answer to your original question is NO - you can't do what you want to do without breaking laws (at least in most countries).

10:33 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Why not generate your own midi files from the sheet music?

As the music itself is in the public domain (the performance is still copyrighted) this would put you totally in the clear.

Make sure that you are using the original dead composer score, and not a more modern arrangement.

Even though someone might have released the file for sharing, that does not necessarily mean that they released it so that you could profit from their work. If you go to any of the software download sites out there, take a look at the licenses. Many of them are "free for non-commercial purposes".

Lots of people are silling to give something away, but they don't want someone else taking their work and turning a profit from their generosity.

3:03 am on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I agree the ONLY way to do what you want is to take the original public domain sheet music and use that to compose your own score.
7:04 am on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Lets just say that I am the performer to Beethovens 5th symphony (in this case, I composed the midi from Beethoven's score myself) and I record it. It is now my recording but still Beethoven's work. If I sell it, and keep 100 percent profit, can I still be in trouble? I cant really pay Beethoven money, but what about his family? Or does he lose the copyright to his work since he has been dead for a long time? How many years until the composer loses rights?
9:07 am on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Music has all kinds of oddness attached - I would suggest phoning ASCAP for advice.
12:43 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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As a rule: If you don't know whether you have permission to use a copyrighted work, then you must assume that you don't have permission.

Why not generate your own midi files from the sheet music?

When you perform music publicly using printed sheets, then the publisher of those sheets is entitled to royalties. If you play in a concert hall, then it's not unlikely that an agent will come up on stage checking your permission.

There's also the question whether a midi file constitutes a copyrighted work of its own. If it is just a transliteration of some sheet music into midi format, then the midi file may already infringe on the copyright of the publisher.

Make sure that you are using the original dead composer score, and not a more modern arrangement.

If you can get hold of old sheets where the copyright has expired, then you're avoiding troubles with any publishers rights.

Even though someone might have released the file for sharing, that does not necessarily mean that they released it so that you could profit from their work.

Nor does it mean they even had the right to share it.

Lets just say that I am the performer to Beethovens 5th symphony (in this case, I composed the midi from Beethoven's score myself) and I record it. It is now my recording but still Beethoven's work. If I sell it, and keep 100 percent profit, can I still be in trouble?

If you really used the original score (and not a newer edition published less than 70 years ago), then you own the full and exclusive rights to the resulting midi/mp3.

I cant really pay Beethoven money, but what about his family? Or does he lose the copyright to his work since he has been dead for a long time? How many years until the composer loses rights?

Beethoven died more than 70 years ago, which means that all of his original work is now in the public domain (those 70 years are not a hard and fast rule, but they'll keep you on the safe side as long as you don't have more accurate data).

6:46 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So I basically am safe as long as I create my own recordings, stay away from todays music (i have no problem with that) and sell MP3's from real oldies, such as Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, etc? From what everyone is saying, their sheet music is in the public domain since all of these guys have been dead for 70+ years.

When you perform music publicly using printed sheets, then the publisher of those sheets is entitled to royalties.

The question is, who is the publisher to Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, etc. Are you saying, that if they are 70+ years dead, anyone can be a publisher, including me? If thats the case, then I can even sell sheet music as long as I am the printer?

8:39 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Lets just say that I am the performer to Beethovens 5th symphony (in this case, I composed the midi from Beethoven's score myself) and I record it.

As long as it was off of the original score, and not someone else's arrangement of the work, then you are in the clear. In fact, you just earned your own copyright of your performance.

It is now my recording but still Beethoven's work. If I sell it, and keep 100 percent profit, can I still be in trouble?

Not in the case of works that are now in the public domain, such as Beethoven's.

I cant really pay Beethoven money, but what about his family?

No. The work is in the public domain.

Or does he lose the copyright to his work since he has been dead for a long time? How many years until the composer loses rights?

At least in the United States, you can assume that anything written before the 1920s is now in the public domain. Newer arrangements and recordings have their own copyrights that you must be concerned with, but the original copyright has expired.

Music has all kinds of oddness attached - I would suggest phoning ASCAP for advice.

I would recommend against this. They have a very biased view and tend to give advice that is in their own interest, even if their advice contradicts the legal facts.

Talk to an attorney instead if you are concerned.

As a rule: If you don't know whether you have permission to use a copyrighted work, then you must assume that you don't have permission.

Except the originals that he is referring to are out of copyright . . . by several centuries.

When you perform music publicly using printed sheets, then the publisher of those sheets is entitled to royalties. If you play in a concert hall, then it's not unlikely that an agent will come up on stage checking your permission.

That is not correct.

The publisher is not entitled to any royalties. It is the copyright holder. If there is no copyright, then there are no royalties.

They might retain a copyright on their prining and layout of the score, but they don't have a copyright on the music. Which is the only thing that would provide them with any rights to a royalty.

That is why I suggested making sure you worked of the original score, to avoid any arrangement copyrights.

f you can get hold of old sheets where the copyright has expired, then you're avoiding troubles with any publishers rights.

It doesn't have to be old sheets, just copies that are not any sort of derivitive work of the music itself. These are easy to come by.

The question is, who is the publisher to Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, etc. Are you saying, that if they are 70+ years dead, anyone can be a publisher, including me?

They were referring to the printer of the sheet music.

Yes, anyone can be a publisher of the music, and that is what you plan on doing.

Just make sure that it is not a modern arrangement of an old work.

By the way, you should set your midi tuning to what it was at the time of composition. I've heard some Motzart played with the original tuning and found it to be more enjoyable that way.

If thats the case, then I can even sell sheet music as long as I am the printer?

You can sell it as long as you are the one that does the layout of the score on the page, or you copy a sheet that is out of copyright. Do not do something like make a photocopy of the score that someone else had printed up for sale.

[edited by: rogerd at 11:22 pm (utc) on Mar. 26, 2005]

11:13 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>> As a rule: If you don't know whether you have permission to use a copyrighted work, then you must assume that you don't have permission.

Except the originals that he is referring to are out of copyright... by several centuries.

The relevant thought remains the same: If you know it's that old, then you also know the copyright has expired, which means you have permission to use it. If you don't know the age of a piece, then you have to assume it's copyrighted.

>>When you perform music publicly using printed sheets, then the publisher of those sheets is entitled to royalties. If you play in a concert hall, then it's not unlikely that an agent will come up on stage checking your permission.

That is not correct.

The publisher is not entitled to any royalties. It is the copyright holder. If there is no copyright, then there are no royalties.

I guess my memory was a little unprecise here. I used to play in a hobby orchestra, and it was no problem to use photocopied scores for rehearsal. But as soon as we went to stage, we had to rent original prints for everybody. So it's probably not royalties as such, but you still have to pay for the printed sheets in such a situation, which means money for the publisher one way or another.

Other than that: "as BigDave said".

8:04 pm on Mar 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Chopin :
Regardless if it is a midi or a performance with real instruments, I think you have to pass all the legal issues like if you were the London Philarmonic or whatever, recording pieces of Beethove or Mozzart.
I'd recommend you to go to the usenet, rec.music.* and you'll find a lot more of dicussion about copyright on music.
9:20 pm on Mar 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm sorry if this is slightly OT and not really webmaster related, but what about groups playing 'cover' songs? For example, if I go see the Rolling Stone and they play a Grateful Dead song, do the stones have to pay $$ the dead? A poster mentioned that if you play a concert hall an agent will most likely check up on you, is that same agent going to the stones concert ;)?
9:39 pm on Mar 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Rossv1 :

Yes, you have to play for performance as well, usually a small fee. There's a institute that handle the performance fees and right. BTW, the fee goes to the composer, not to the other performer.

9:55 pm on Apr 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A few thoughts :

* Yes, go for it, you can make your own recordings from 19th century or earlier music, and sell them, and keep all of the money (after taxes :-) - but check your own country's copyright laws on what is in the "public domain" - in USA it is 1923 I believe (can be later if expired and not renewed.)

* You can also take the original arrangements, make them in your own style, and sell them as original music that no one else can sell... and so *your* sheet music would be *your* arrangement that only you have the copyright to.

* If it is a choral music, you can come up with your own words and copyright the new lyrics to the old public-domain song.

* If you take a Rolling Stones song or other currently-under-copyright song and make a midi file or sheet music, you have to pay money to the owner of the song's copyright if you want to use or sell it. Same goes for a performance. The Harry Fox agency handles it for most of the music that is performed now, and there are some standard fees per song (some are very low for low-volume and/or non-profit use). But a lot of the midi used on the internet is likely violating the copyright-holder's rights. Creative Commons and other options may allow for free use.

* Final note: If you are doing this - selling your creation - then spend the money to get a copyright on *your* performance of the music, on your sheet music, and/or your midi files. Midi files float all over the internet, but someone owns the copyright (esp with regard to the previous bullet). Odds are that someone will lift (steal) your work at some point, although you may never know (or care) about the low-volume cases.

5:42 pm on Apr 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If you are doing this - selling your creation - then spend the money to get a copyright on *your* performance of the music,

My plan is to record most of Chopin, then the great works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc. In the future, this is going to be alot of recordings that I had created. Doesn't it cost $30 to copyright each performance, or can I do it all at once?

As long as my sales remain consistent, I don't care that much if people steal by sharing, (lots of people share Chopin, Beethoven, etc anyway, so sharing my particular version will not really change my sales. I have no idea how this will turn out by the way, but its worth a try).

The only reason I would copyright the pieces is if someone else decides to copyright them, and get me in trouble later. Also, it is tedious to copyright each piece, so if I was to wait to do it all at once, maybe in 2 or 3 years when alot of my recordings are finished, would this be ideal?

7:15 pm on Apr 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

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You own the copyright when you make the music, and the MP3 would be a lesser-quality version. The original *master* version is good evidence that you created a particular recording. Make extra backups, including "off-site" (friends/family).

I would copyright the first song, paying the money, to make sure I've at least established some precedent. But legally I don't know if that matters... although it could help in getting a site taken down that had your music. The (c) process takes time, so starting soon will help getting one "in the bag" by the end of the year. It should also help your scare-factor against swappers to add in statements about "registered copyright issued by the (your country) copyright office" to your website and song attributes.

 

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