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Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

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Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:34 pm

Not looking for actual legal advice, just your opinion on the potential legal issues for finding free sampled instruments on the Internet, using them on a recording, and then publishing the recording. If something is being offered free through a website, and they don't make it clear the samples are either creative common licensed or free to use commercially etc., if you intend to publish your recording is it a bad idea to be using the samples?

For example, there's a website here:

http://www.freesoundvault.com/sounds/

The link offers instruments available in sf2 format. Some of these are very small, but at least one is almost 10 MB in size and contains .wav samples if you examine the sf2 file with a program like Polyphone. There is one such plug-in that I have grown to love among them, but now that I have discovered a potential issue with using the sampled instrument, even though it's available for free at the website, I fear the potential for legal issues if the source of the samples is actually one that has a specific EULA and required purchase in order to legally use the samples in a recording that will be made commercially available.

But am I being overly cautious here? My fear is that if the music I publish becomes popular, and there's a distinct sound to the sampled instrument, the original creator of the sampled instrument will be able to detect it somehow and present a legal challenge after the work is distributed, and who knows what they might be entitled to in a law suit at that point? You'd think they'd just require you to purchase a license, but the music business often doesn't work in a fair manner.

I can't contact the owner of the website above to inquire further. There's "free" stuff all over the internet, some of it quite good, but even when they offer it free, you never really know what was the source of the samples.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:22 pm

Petros_K wrote:There is one such plug-in that I have grown to love among them, but now that I have discovered a potential issue with using the sampled instrument, even though it's available for free at the website, I fear the potential for legal issues if the source of the samples is actually one that has a specific EULA and required purchase in order to legally use the samples in a recording that will be made commercially available.

I think you have answered your own question here, if the EULA specifies that you must purchase a licence if you want to use the sampled instrument in a commercial recording then that is what you must do.

Whether this also applies to personal or 'not for profit' use I don't know but many software products are offered as free demos but as soon as you use them In a commercial environment or for profit you, quite reasonable, have to pay.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:25 am

Sam Spoons wrote:... if the EULA specifies that you must purchase a licence if you want to use the sampled instrument in a commercial recording then that is what you must do.

No. There is no EULA. There is no information available. I can't even contact the website owner. There is no explanation where the sampled instrument came from. It's not clear how it was made or with what samples. The only thing anyone knows when they go to the website noted above is the sf2 file is available for free. The instrument I mention is only about 10 MB, so it's not filled with hundreds of samples like some expensive sampled instruments. However, it's still not clear did someone make the samples and then offer it for free? Or is it something widely available for free (such as what you find on websites like Freesounds.com) and there's a creative commons license. It's not knowing the source of the sf2 file and the samples that makes it so hard for me to decide what to do. I like the sf2 instrument so much because it sounds way more natural than so many other instruments I've heard.

The sf2 instrument is free. There's no keycode required. It's in sf2 format and can be played on free players like Sforzando or Aria. But the dilemma exists: what happens if this sf2 instrument is actually one that was made with samples that I'm not licensed to use? Just because a sampled instrument is available for free doesn't mean it can be used however you want. It's in the absence of knowing if there's a licensing issue that makes me hesitate to use it on my own recordings that will be made commercially available.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:40 am

As always, these questions are worth the effort only if you think you will make serious amount of money out of the final product. While something that is for sale is technically "commercial", the reality of published music (thousands submission to Spotify per day, for example) make it so that the term applies only to stuff that actually sells, in volumes.

If that's the case, you have to _assume_ that material is copyrighted unless explicitly released as free for commercial use: if there's serious money involved, and there's no clarity, claims will be made (and rightly so).

That said, it's perfectly possible to publish the material, make a bunch, receive a claim and then accept to share the spoils. It's happened more than once.

So long you ain't greedy and you are ready to recognize the contribution of whatever you used, you'll be fine.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:56 pm

CS70 wrote:... you have to _assume_ that material is copyrighted unless explicitly released as free for commercial use...

No serious songwriter releases material hoping it will not be widely accepted. Nobody releases streaming audio to distributors thinking it will never sell, regardless of the probability of success. Unless you want to set yourself up for disaster, you need to assume your recordings will sell. I agree you need to take precautions, and that's why I'm asking this question here at SOS hoping someone can shed more light on what to do.

It's just such a loss to me that I can't use that instrument with confidence because for months I've been working with it. I have 15 songs using this instrument prominently throughout each song, and they all would have to be redone. I can't just transfer MIDI data within my DAW to a new instrument because one thing I have found is that you need to hear the actual samples in the instrument while you're playing it in order to make it sound right.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:25 pm

--- I finally just found contact information for someone associated with the website. I'm going to try contacting the person.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Wed Jun 24, 2020 6:29 pm

I just found out where the sampled instrument came from, which amazingly is another free source. I can easily contact the original source now to ask what is the end-user agreement license.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 6:44 pm

Petros_K wrote:No serious songwriter releases material hoping it will not be widely accepted. Nobody releases streaming audio to distributors thinking it will never sell, regardless of the probability of success. Unless you want to set yourself up for disaster, you need to assume your recordings will sell.

True dat - I always say that if you don't take yourself seriously, who will?

It's just such a loss to me that I can't use that instrument with confidence because for months I've been working with it. I have 15 songs using this instrument prominently throughout each song, and they all would have to be redone. I can't just transfer MIDI data within my DAW to a new instrument because one thing I have found is that you need to hear the actual samples in the instrument while you're playing it in order to make it sound right.

Looks like you're making progress, great!
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Jun 24, 2020 6:52 pm

Good luck! :thumbup:
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby Petros_K » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:36 pm

CS70 wrote: I always say that if you don't take yourself seriously, who will?


Excellent. I gotta remember that.
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Re: Recording With "Free" Sampled Instruments_Legal Issues?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:40 pm

It's true, he does say that. :)
I'm providing a service by proving the corollary is true: I never take myself seriously and neither does anyone else! ;)
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