Sign up ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free.

I'm trying to understand what the law says about the use of MIDI or otherwise synthesized representations of songs under copyright within computer games, be they online or installed.

I have read opinions, which make some sense to me, which state that a played back MIDI file counts as an unauthorized performance, albeit by a soundcard, and thus falls under standard copyright law. Is this the case? Does it make any difference at all whether all or part of the representation is performed by a human being, and whether, for example, vocals are replaced by a synth line? Does it make a difference if only a core motif from the song is used as opposed to the full track? And does it make any difference how realistic the sound is - for example, is a bleepy 8 bit rendition any less a violation of copyright than a MIDI file rendered down to a wave file using top-notch orchestral VSTs?

I'm well aware that the digital world is awash with blatant copyright violations and that often it comes down to whether it is worth the copyright holder's effort to enforce the law. But I'm interested to learn exactly what the law is, because this seems like a vague area.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by MattDavey, Thomas Owens Feb 4 '13 at 11:01

Questions on Programmers Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software development within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I think that this may be the wrong forum for this type of question, as I see this more as a question about legal issues, than it is a question about programming. – Pete Feb 4 '13 at 10:40
OK, my misunderstanding. I had found other copyright and legal related questions on this site and figured that this type of question is relevant to how we plan our app content and branding, but my apologies. – Tom Hall Feb 4 '13 at 20:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

The short answer is that the artist holds some sort of "Intellectual Copyright", meaning that they have the copyright for the song, as an idea. Thus any kind of public reproduction of that song is governed by their copyright.

This is not to be confused with the "Mechanical copyright" which is the copyright of the recording itself.

So you cannot legally reproduce the song as a MIDI track without proper permission. I'm not an expert on the matter, so do consult a lawyer before getting such a permission to make sure you get the right permission.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.