Misc: International copyright law for music

You are creating some music and want to know about any copyright issues regarding use of sounds, combis, MIDI files, CD's etc. Let's say in general terms we will call any of these a "certain song" that has been produced by someone else. This article explains in layman's terms the key aspects of international Copyright law that apply almost universally in any country which has signed up to it.

Disclaimer: This is not a professional legal opinion created or endorsed by Karma-Lab LLC or any of its agents. The wiki community at large are simply summarizing in good faith what they believe to be the salient points of international copyright law that might be of interest to the general audience of this wiki.

  • If based on a "certain song" published by someone still living or within (50 to 100) years of their death, you create what is known as a "derived work" then international Copyright law applies. (It used to be 50 years from death that the copyright lapsed but is currently changed to 100 years.)
  • If the "derived work" is performed at a private party with friends and family and no money is involved then it would be classed as your personal use which is permitted so long as you had purchased a copy of the "certain song" yourself.
  • If the "derived work" is sold or given away then the copyright owner of the "certain song" has to give permission … usually this is automatic following the agreement to pay the copyright owner a royalty per copy that is sold or given away. In the case of the recordings of a steinway piano that were used recently to make a "free give away" to Pa2x owners, the University of Iowa are the copyright owners. They gave permission for this without requiring payment of a royalty so long as no money was charged.
  • If the "derived work" is performed in front of any members of the public then it is classed as a "Public Performance" and international Copyright law applies. A different type of license is needed, and normally the owner or provider of the performance venue is responsible for arranging this. The responsibility for arranging public performance licenses varies from country to country.
  • In the case of samples, programs, and combis for the M3, both Korg and Karma Labs are the Copyright owners. They have stated their copyright licensing policy several times. Owners of the M3 are permitted to create and record audio music using these facilities, and the audio music can be sold, performed in public or whatever, and no license fee is demanded by Korg or Karma Labs. However the source data comprising the samples, programs and combis can not be given away or sold under any conditions. For example if you gave away some form of cracked version of Catalyst combis or the internal M3 samples to someone else, you would be breaking the law.
  • If the "derived work" uses such a small amount of the "certain song" that the "certain song" is completely unrecognisable, then no-one will know or care about it. A percentage rule is applied in disputed cases in the USA, where if less than 1-2% of the "certain song" has been used, and provided credit is given, then there is deemed to be no infringement of copyright. In a similar way you can publish a book in which you include quotations of no more than 1-2% of someone else's book, and that is permitted.
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