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I recently purchased licenses for two pieces of music production software; specifically, those are virtual instruments with a library of sound samples.

The end-user license agreement terms for both applications state that I am free to reproduce, distribute, perform etc. my derivative works (musical pieces utilizing the sound samples), as long as I don't distribute the samples on their own. There is also a statement that requires my "including a valid copyright notice" on each of my derivative works.

The contents of that paragraph read as follows:

  1. LIMITED RIGHTS TO MEDIA ELEMENTS. The software may include certain pictures, animations, sounds, music and video clips for your reuse. You may create your own works based upon these media elements, and copy, modify, distribute, display, and perform your derivative works provided that:

    2.1. you indemnify, defend, and hold [company name here] harmless from and against any claims or liabilities arising from your use of the media elements;

    2.2. you include a valid copyright notice on your derivative works.

    You may not sell, license or distribute the media elements by themselves or as part of any collection, product or service whose value is derived solely or primarily from the media elements themselves.

My assumption is that I am required to copyright my derivative works in order to prevent other people from copying parts of it (which could be recognized as redistribution of samples on their own).

However, the paragraph is quite confusing and I'm not completely sure whether it asks me to copyright my music with my own name, or rather include a notice attributing the creators of the software.

If I'm supposed to copyright my works, does that mean I'm restricted from releasing them on a license such as Creative Commons BY-NC-ND (attribution required, non-commercial use, no derivatives)? Could I license my works for other people to use (in unmodified form) e.g. in their videos?

  • As you may have inferred from the answers, it's not necessary to "copyright" a work to give the work protection. The protection exists automatically. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 18:55
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You are required to provide a copyright notice on your work, such as putting (c) rhino 2016 in the liner notes. Nothing precludes you from licensing that copyright in any way you want, such as Creative Commons. As long as you aren't in violation of the last sentence (your work is not primarily the samples, and you actually made a song with them), then others should be able to use your work with no restrictions other than what you yourself place on the work.

The purpose of requiring a copyright notice on derivative works is to give notice of who the actual author is and distance the original author from the derivative work. If you take their samples and make a song that is later at the center of a lawsuit (copyright, defamation, etc), the the copyright notice will hopefully steer people first to the derivative author and not the original author. That is the purpose of the clause in the copyright grant above.

  • Thanks! I think it would make sense to incorporate your comment under the other answer to this one, so that people in the future can easily find out the reason for such a requirement. Also, I thought putting a copyright notice on a work and releasing it on a relaxed license were mutually exclusive things, so thanks for clearing that up! – rhino Sep 30 '16 at 16:36
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"a valid copyright notice" is a reference to old copyright laws that required the author to explicitly claim copyright. Under current law copyright exists from the moment of creation/fixation (depending on jurisdiction) so a valid copyright notice would be:

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    I must disagree with this answer somewhat -- while a copyright notice is not necessary for copyright to apply, U.S. law (at least) formally specifies a format for copyright notices, and use of such a notice does have legal implications (e.g., invalidating a defense of innocent infringement). The non-use of a notice is of course not non-application of copyright, but I argue that the absence of a notice is not a "valid notice" (insofar as a non-notice cannot be a notice) especially since 17 USC 401 does specify what a valid notice looks like. – apsillers Sep 29 '16 at 15:16
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    In other words, I don't think the license text here is asking for application of copyright); rather, it is applying the completely arbitrary requirement that derivatives include a copyright notice, just as it might apply any other arbitrary requirement, e.g., you must pay $5 for each copy you produce, or that derivatives may only be distributed within the state of California. – apsillers Sep 29 '16 at 15:24
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    I also disagree with this answer but for an additional reason. The purpose of requiring a copyright notice on derivative works is to give notice of who the actual author is and distance the original author from the derivative work. If you take their samples and make a song that is later at the center of a lawsuit (copyright, defamation, etc), the the copyright notice will hopefully steer people first to the derivative author and not the original author. That is the purpose of the clause in the copyright grant above. – David Sep 29 '16 at 20:22

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