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I've been tossing around the possibility of making something like the Beatnik Rhythmic Analyzer. From scratch. The idea I have is that people will enter in rhythms in the form of actual music notation, and then the device will then play the rhythms back for you and will tell you how accurate you are. Then, if the user wants, he/she can upload their rhythm to their profile, and then everybody else with this same drumpad will be able to download the rhythm from this person's profile and onto their own pad and play it. So, it's like one big, happy community of people with these drumpads sharing rhythms.

What I'm concerned about is that people will enter in snare drum solos that are copyrighted and save these rhythms and then then other people will be able to play these solos. Do you see any copyright issues here? The music is actually stored in musicxml, so it's not sheet music or anything. Is it wrong if I am enabling this kind of copyright issue (if it is one)? So, I guess it will be like Soundcloud, except for rhythm. Similar to Sound cloud, I feel like it would be the user's own fault for violating copyright, and not my own fault for enabling this sort of thing.

A couple other thoughts:

  1. Can rhythm even be copyrighted? This is for just rhythm and not melody or chords or anything.
  2. If this is a copyright issue, can I protect myself by having terms of service that say you cannot upload "copyrighted rhythms (like a snare drum solo)".

I found this United States - Does uploading music to a site imply responsibility for copyright infringement? ... but, it is for full music, and not just rhythm.

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Yes and no, depending on the complexity of the rhythmic pattern. Certain simple patterns have been around for tens of millenia, on the other hand the "Amen Break" is protected by copyright (not to say that the rights-holders have gotten any money for their creation, but that's another matter). If the pattern was created by someone in the modern era, it is protected, but if it was recycled from a Baroque or (Indian) Tintal, it is not.

In addition to prohibiting uploading material that the user does not have a right to, you also need to abide by DMCA safe harbor provisions. The short version is that there has to be a way for a rights-holder to (formally) inform you that your website has protected material which you must take down, and if you do everything right you are not liable for copyright infringement, but if you mess up then you are. This might provide the introductory reading that could make it clear what you have to do (I'm somewhat surprised that we don't have a generic FAQ style DMCA question and answer).

  • Excellent information. Thank you! And it makes total sense. It sounds like this type of copyright infringement can be very much up to interpretation. – Jared Simon May 5 '17 at 21:41

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