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Irishcream

Music Legalities

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Hello,

I've been trying to find a clear answer to this for some time now. Would doing a chip-tone rendition of a song (that gets included in a game) infringe on copyrights? The chip-tone rendition is original so I know it doesn't infringe on any recording copyrights but it does infringe on musical composition copyrights?

-Does the chip-tone rendition count as a 'cover' and need to be licensed accordingly?

-Does including it in a web game count as a 'phonorecord' as defined by law?



Thanks

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If you're using the song's melody, you need to get permission from the song's publishing company. They can answer the rest of your questions.

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-Does the chip-tone rendition count as a 'cover' and need to be licensed accordingly?

Yes. Makes no difference if you use a full orchestra, a computer chip or a comb and paper to record the music it is still a cover of a copyright work.

-Does including it in a web game count as a 'phonorecord' as defined by law?[/quote]
Not sure how it would legally be defined but it is basically the same as using a piece of music in a movie or TV show and would need to be licensed accordingly.

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Did some more research. Here's what I found:

There are 2 different types of licenses that relate to 'covering' a song.
Mechanical License and Compulsory License:

A mechanical license is acquired from the copyright holder. This is needed if you want to rearrange the song significantly (which I believe a lyricless chip-tone rendition would count as). Mechanical license can often be acquired thru a broker service such as Limelight (http://www.songclearance.com/). Not all songs are available for mechanical license - all depends on the decisions of the original copyright holder.

A compulsory license is something that is acquired from the government (I know this is true in the US, not sure about other countries). The copyright holder of the song must be identified and they get royalties from it. As the name implies, it's compulsory so the original copyright holder can't say no. The caveat is that it must be a true cover of the song so it cannot be rearranged in any way. The royalties is a rate per minute of playtime (i'm assuming this measured by the track length on each copy sold) (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/115.html)


All the law is geared towards actually selling music and it becomes really difficult to apply this law to something like a web game. According to the music itself, a mechanical license is required but it's measured on number of copies. How does this work with something like a web-game? Does each play count as a copy or does each copy on various web portals count as a copy? Perhaps there is licensing terms just for this, I don't know.

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The compulsory license is probably for radio and TV and such (to streamline the day-to-day running of the radio and TV business). The mechanical license is probably what you'd have to have, since we're talking about a product rather than a streaming on-the-run type of broadcast. As for the measurement and rate, that's something you would have to discuss with the music publisher.
If your product really needs that particular tune, you need to contact the music publisher sooner or later and talk turkey.
If your product doesn't absolutely need that particular tune, you could just compose something original and then you wouldn't have to worry about it.

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The compulsory license is probably for radio and TV and such (to streamline the day-to-day running of the radio and TV business). The mechanical license is probably what you'd have to have, since we're talking about a product rather than a streaming on-the-run type of broadcast. As for the measurement and rate, that's something you would have to discuss with the music publisher.
If your product really needs that particular tune, you need to contact the music publisher sooner or later and talk turkey.
If your product doesn't absolutely need that particular tune, you could just compose something original and then you wouldn't have to worry about it.



Incidentally the compulsory license for nondramatic musical works does enable individuals to release sound recordings of covers for a statutory royalty. Because this does NOT apply to performing the work publicly, and may not apply when synchronizing the work with an audiovisual project, it's actually rarely used and people go straight to the publisher.

There are plenty of creative commons libraries out there specifically for game music. Something to consider unless you want to pay a significant sync license.

For more info:

http://underdevelopmentlaw.com/licensing-third-party-ip-for-your-game-part-i/

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