Back in the bad old days of the internet (pre/early Napster/MP3 era) people used to swap MIDI files across the interwebs. MIDI files, for the uninitiated, are small sized computer files containing musically instructions for your computer [midi sequencer] to generate a musical tune. They are not the audio recordings, they are synthetic intereptations of the song. People would spend hours transcribing and crafting MIDI files of songs they loved listening to and performing, often just as a hobby. The music industry thought this enjoyment was unlawful and so set about to destroy the practice. I personally remember the scare mongering they were trying to generate back then. MIDI files, the things people laugh at when they started playing... MIDI files, like home taping and DAT tapes before them, were going to destroy the music industry... and they wonder why no one cares about their worries of mp3 downloads now.
The following was written circa 1996:
[ http://www.midi.org/newsviews/usco_pr.shtml ]
Groundbreaking new U.S. Copyright Office opinion equates MIDI files with CDs and audio cassettes
Source: Business Wire
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE) via Individual Inc. -- The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Manufacturers Association (MMA) with assistance from multimedia industry leaders such as Thomas Dolby/Headspace, Microsoft, Apple, Yamaha and Kurzweil announced today at the Interactive Multimedia Association Expo that legal opinions from the U.S. Copyright Office state that MIDI files are subject to mechanical compulsory licenses when not accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
This groundbreaking and controversial decision will significantly lower publishers per unit licensing fees for MIDI recordings of musical works. At the same time, it will allow for a substantial increase in the number of published MIDI files, increasing publishers overall revenues and bringing MIDI into the mainstream consumer audio market.
"MIDI technology can dramatically improve music education, games and Internet applications," said Tom White, president of the MMA. "But until now, licensing for audio-only MIDI files has been difficult and expensive."
According to Charlotte Douglass, principal legal advisor to the general counsel, United States Copyright Office: "The Office still considers the media upon which aural sequences are recorded (unaccompanied by visual images) to be phonorecords and that such media are subject to a mechanical license or compulsory license under Section 115. The output of Standard MIDI files are works of authorship copyrightable as sound recordings since the information in the file causes the sound device to render the pitch, timbre, speed, duration and volume of the musical notes in a certain order, as does a player piano in conjunction with a piano roll, or a compact disc player in conjunction with a compact disc."
"This opinion clarifies for everyone that MIDI files are no different from other forms of audio," said Brian Ward, special counsel to the MMA. "This has been the critical missing link for explosive growth in consumer interactive audio applications."
While removing barriers to the use of MIDI data in many areas, this opinion still leaves unresolved other creative control issues affected by a compulsory license. "Our intent is to continue our dialogue with publishers and songwriters to help create solutions which will allow everyone to benefit," noted White.
Comprised of over 140 hardware and software companies from various industries, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) is dedicated to improving and standardizing the capabilities and marketability of MIDI-based products. Membership includes leading companies from every application of audio and MIDI technology, including stage and theater, music performance, home and studio recording, multimedia computing, film and broadcast, and others.
The MMA's SMF Copyright and Licensing Committee was formed with the assistance of charter members Roland and Yamaha to communicate the interests of the music products industry and its customers to music publishers, artists, and copyright holders in hopes of developing a strong market for commercial MIDI files.
For more information, please write the MIDI Manufacturers Association, P.O. Box 3173, La Habra, CA, 90632; or visit the MMA Web site at http://www.midi.org.