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  1. #1

    Copyright Questions Answered

    I'll start off by saying that I'm not a lawyer, but as a member of the broadcast industry I have studied copyright law and how it pertains to music in particular.

    I'll start off by describing the law, then work through how it applies to LOTRO and you in a practical sense. You can then decide for yourself what level of copyright infringement you are comfortable with.

    If you have any corrections to make, let me know and please cite sources.

    Copyright Law in the US: The Basics

    Copyright law protects the creator of, well, creative works. When it began it covered only specific kinds of works such as literature, but it has been expanded in the years that followed to include nearly everything. Copyright law protects authors with the following:

    -The right to reproduce the work (such as burning a CD)
    -The right to derivative works (such as a remix of a song)
    -The right to distribute the work (such as selling or giving away)
    -The right to publicly perform the work (such as a concert or streetcorner)
    -The right to publicly display the work (same as performing, but with pieces such as paintings)

    Ah, you may have noticed the big one. "Publicly Perform." You might think that performing copyrighted works is okay, so long as you don't make any money doing it. This is not so. By performing for free, you devalue the work. Simply put, the original author can't make any money performing if other people perform the same work for free.

    A lot hinges on whether it could be proven that playing something in LOTRO is a public performance, something that in the real world is usually dependent on the number of people listening.

    It could also be argued that by posting ABC files on the internet, you are illegally distributing the work, or at the very least derivative works.

    Fair Use

    You may have noticed things like small .mp3 samples on websites that sell music, or excerpts of articles quoted in books or websites.

    "Fair use" is an exception to copyright law meaning that anyone can reproduce small portions of copyrighted works. Though not always required, it is helpful if you attribute the work when you do so. "Attribution" is a fancy word meaning you cite the original author as the creator of the work.

    Parodies are also protected by Fair Use. The Supreme Court defines a parody as "the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works."

    What is copyrighted?

    Everything, as soon as it is published, whether it be posted on the internet, published in a magazine, played on the radio, whatever.

    The author does not need to apply for a copyright if they published it after 1978, though doing so helps prove their case in court if the work is stolen. If published prior to 1978, they do need to have filed the copyright with the US Copyright Office.

    A "poor man's copyright" that is used by some authors is to seal a copy of your work and send it to yourself via registered mail, which is timestamped and considered admissable in court. Obviously, you don't open the package until you're in a courtroom.

    Public Domain

    The "Public Domain" is where works go when they are no longer under copyright. Public Domain works can be used freely by anyone.

    -Works published in the US prior to 1978 remain copyrighted for 95 years from the date of publication.
    -Works published in the US after 1978 remain copyrighted until 70 years after the death of the author.
    -Works of US corporate authorship published after 1978 remain copyrighted for 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation, whichever is shorter.

    There are a few other rules, but this is enough to give a general idea. If you have a specific question and you don't think it's covered here, the US Copyright Office can help you.

    Fun fact: The Copyright Act of 1976 (which took effect in 1978, obviously) originally protected works for 50 years after the death of the author. In 1998, Disney successfully lobbied Congress to extend it by 20 years, as Mickey Mouse was about to slip into the public domain.

    Fun Fact #2: The song "Happy Birthday to You" is copyrighted and will remain so until the year 2030. This is why it is not sung at restaurants such as TGI Fridays, and they instead sing some other birthday-themed song.

    The LOTRO EULA (End User License Agreement)

    Now, with all these laws protecting the author of works, any idiot can assume that Turbine did some covering of their own. They did:

    "...Content created by you must not: (a) infringe any copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, or other proprietary right of any person or entity;..."

    So not only are they (in theory) protected, they could even suspend or ban you for inputting copyrighted material to protect themselves. Not that they need the excuse, as they can ban you for any or no reason at any time. Until it starts happening however, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

    So wait, I can't play any copyrighted works?

    Technically speaking, no. Are you likely to be sued for it? Basically, not a chance in hell. (though I assume no responsibility if you are, *cough* *cough*)

    Remember the case where Marvel sued NCSoft over City of Heroes? The lawsuit stated that NCSoft was responsible for the copyright infringement being perpetrated by the players. You see, players were using the robust hero creation system to recreate approximations of copyrighted characters.

    The point is, Marvel didn't sue each player. It would have been a waste of time. They sued NCSoft, and settled out of court. The conditions weren't released, but it is presumed that NCSoft paid Marvel some money to make the problem go away quietly, though chances are good the lawsuit would have been defeated (details).

    It isn't too much of a stretch for the RIAA, ASCAP, or BMI to try to sue Turbine, but that's between them. And there probably isn't much of a case.

    On the other hand, the RIAA is a bloodthirsty animal when it comes to illegal music downloading. That sort of thing is a lot easier to prove than what songs you play in LOTRO, however. They would have to know when you did it and your account name, and lean on Turbine to release the logs.

    Posting copyrighted material on the forums, however, is easy to prove (if Turbine cooperates). Not all ISP's have rolled over for the RIAA and given them their logs, whether Turbine would do the same is unknown.

    Would-be composers: Who owns the work you create on LOTRO?

    Here's another section from the EULA:

    "...If and to the extent you are deemed to have retained, under applicable law, any right, title or interest in or to any portion of the Content, you hereby transfer, grant, convey, assign and relinquish solely and exclusively to Turbine, in perpetuity to the extent permitted by applicable laws or for the duration of the legal protection afforded to the Content...To the extent permitted under applicable laws, you hereby waive any moral rights you may have in any and all Content..."

    (emphasis mine)

    This is where it gets muddy. It sounds like Turbine would like to claim whatever rights to your work that they can, but precedent in these types of cases is limited. To be safe, I would advise against playing anything in LOTRO that you plan to copyright and sell. You do retain certain rights no matter what the EULA says, but it's best to avoid a battle.

    To clarify what the EULA means by "the Content," I'll make another quote from earlier in the same section:

    "As part of your Game experience, you may be able to input language and upload content to the Game, our servers and similar areas which allow you to communicate with others in various forms, such as in the selections you make for playing the Game (for example, character names, in-game (text or voice) conversations, broadcast announcements, etc.) and in chat channels (text or voice), and to create and modify your user interface, characters, character names, game play and the like (collectively, the "Content")"

    (again, emphasis mine)

    So we can see by "Content," they in fact mean what the player inputs and creates. Though it doesn't specifically say player music, it could fall under "game play."
    Last edited by PugPug; Aug 09 2007 at 11:43 AM.
    Drive down gas prices. Stay home and play more LOTRO.

  2. #2
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Quote Originally Posted by PugPug View Post
    This is where it gets muddy. It sounds like Turbine would like to claim whatever rights to your work that they can, but precedent in these types of cases is limited. To be safe, I would advise against playing anything in LOTRO that you plan to copyright and sell. You do retain certain rights no matter what the EULA says, but it's best to avoid a battle.
    This typically applies to character images, as created in-game using game mechanics.

    It'd be a real stretch to lay claim to any music posted on the boards, or played in-game, or so I'd think.
    Lle merna aut farien?
    Playing music in LotRO is as easy as ABC!

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  3. #3
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Great Post!

    Having to deal with copyright issues in everything, it was nice to get a narrowed down/dumbed down version of the legal issues. Very informative!

    Thanks!
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  4. #4
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    I work in the music industry, (under contract with a major label) and pretty savvy in copyright of music. (registering works, optaining a UPC, ISRC, etc...) All my efforts to inform the uniformed were brushed aside.

    I, at least, appreicate all the time and effort you put into this post... however, don't be disheartened when it is ignored, someone tries to find a loophole, discredit you or you're called a fear monger.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Nice post PugPug.

  6. #6
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    I may be mistaken, but I believe that you cannot have a transfer of IP without a signed document. I read the EULA once, and I am doubtful that Turbine could claim ownership of any IP created by anyone in game, or brought into game, as you have not signed. They try to skirt it with an agreement to sign, but I'm doubtful that would work.

    Take a look at the famous dispute between the B-hole surfers and Touch 'n' Go for more on that issue.

    ps Nice post
    Last edited by Pellegro; Aug 03 2007 at 12:07 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Nice post. A couple of very quick minor replies:

    Quote Originally Posted by PugPug View Post
    ...Ah, you may have noticed the big one. "Publicly Perform." You might think that performing copyrighted works is okay, so long as you don't make any money doing it. This is not so. By performing for free, you devalue the work....
    The key word, though, is "publicly". You're allowed to perform anything you like privately. And that would presumbly include just playing your instrument at home with a couple people listening. (Otherwise there would be no point to buying sheet music in the first place.)

    Similarly I think you'd have a hard time defining most playing of music in LOTRO as "public performances", especially if your character or maybe one or two other people are around to hear it. On the other hand, if you're entertaining lots of people simultaneously in LOTRO, doing a mini-musical show for example, then you're starting to get into the realm of public performance. I doubt there's an exact numerical number involved in differentiating between public and private performances, but it's probably a stretch to call two or three bystanders "public".

    So this part of it is probably the part I'd be least worried about. I doubt even the RIAA gives a hoot if someone plays a song on their lute in LOTRO in front of three or five people. Posting the songs would be the bigger issue, mainly because it would reach a wider audience.

    The LOTRO EULA (End User License Agreement)
    Remember the case where Marvel sued NCSoft over City of Heroes? The lawsuit stated that NCSoft was responsible for the copyright infringement being perpetrated by the players. You see, players were using the robust hero creation system to recreate approximations of copyrighted characters.

    The point is, Marvel didn't sue each player. It would have been a waste of time. They sued NCSoft, and settled out of court. The conditions weren't released, but it is presumed that NCSoft paid Marvel some money for the right to keep running City of Heroes.
    Getting off-topic, but you're making a bad assumption if you think NCSoft settled "for the right to keep running the game." Marvel's case was virtually thrown out of court and the odds are quite good that had they continued to pursue it they would have lost. (For more info on the story, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of...Suit_by_Marvel )

    So why would NCSoft settle the case if they were going to win? Simple - it's cheaper and better business to settle a case then to drag it through court. Playing the case out, even if NCSoft won, would have cost a ton of money and time and wouldn't be worth it. And who knows, there's always the remote chance they'd lose part of a case, so why even take the risk? Plus, by settling, they opened the door to actually work WITH Marvel, as can be seen by Cryptic being the developer for the Marvel MMORPG. (In fact in my head I can just imagine the settlement went something like -
    Cryptic/NCSoft - "Why not drop your lawsuit and we can work together on making a Marvel MMORPG?"
    Marvel - (realizing they're in a losing position and that CoH is doing well) "Hmm... good idea.")


    Would-be composers: Who owns the work you create on LOTRO?

    Here's another section from the EULA:

    "...If and to the extent you are deemed to have retained, under applicable law, any right, title or interest in or to any portion of the Content, you hereby transfer, grant, convey, assign and relinquish solely and exclusively to Turbine, in perpetuity to the extent permitted by applicable laws or for the duration of the legal protection afforded to the Content...To the extent permitted under applicable laws, you hereby waive any moral rights you may have in any and all Content..."
    Keep in mind all abc music files are created outside of the game in text or music editors. When the EULA talks about "the Content", it's referring to all the resources in the game itself. For example, I don't own snapshots of my character from inside the game even though in a sense I "created" them - Turbine owns those snapshots. And I can't just take art objects or sounds or music from the game and make my own stuff out of it. They own all of those resources.

    But abc music files are created outside of the game with no resources from Turbine. You don't even use any tools developed by Turbine to write them, and even if you did they couldn't claim the work as their own. (It would be like Photoshop claiming they own any pictures you create using their product.) So they can't say your abc music file belongs to them even if you posted it here or play it in the game world. They're your music files, and theoretically if they're also your original songs then they're also automatically copyrighted to you.

    On the other hand, what they probably CAN do is record you playing music in game and use that recording however they like (eg stick a recording of it in their advertising or on their website, etc). And their recording of what you do in game belongs to them, not you. Similarly, I'm pretty sure that you automatically consent to Turbine reproducing anything you post here, so they could probably take any abc file posted here and use it however they like. So I definitely agree with the original poster that if you plan to sell an original song you wrote in an abc file you probably shouldn't post it here, and you might not even want to play it in game if you're worried about it being recorded.


    Anyway, just a couple quick replies. Great post.
    - Hoho, Pie-Runner
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  8. #8

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Thanks for your thoughts. Based on your input I've updated the "basics" section, the COH lawsuit section, and the would-be composers section.

    Concerning "Content" belonging to Turbine meaning screenshots and the like, I think it does include that, but I believe it also includes much more. I base this on where in the EULA the language appears, and how "Content" is defined in the document.
    Last edited by PugPug; Aug 03 2007 at 08:13 AM.
    Drive down gas prices. Stay home and play more LOTRO.

  9. #9

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    nice post ...a simple solution to avoiding copyright infringement is to stick to works created in a time frame that corresponds ..ie those works that are generally recognized as public domain ..<ie anythin over 100 years old is public domain> youd be suprised at just how much music youll find ...<also works generated from the 1200 to 1600's fit the RP enviornment better>

  10. #10

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Here's a question.
    Since Turbine has some of the rights to the LotR franchise (I assume this includes music), is reproducing songs from the LotR movies in-game via the music system, by the players, an infringement upon copyright?
    [charsig=http://lotrosigs.level3.turbine.com/0520a0000000760fd/01005/signature.png]Aevric[/charsig]

  11. #11

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Quote Originally Posted by Vraell View Post
    Here's a question.
    Since Turbine has some of the rights to the LotR franchise (I assume this includes music), is reproducing songs from the LotR movies in-game via the music system, by the players, an infringement upon copyright?
    Turbine has rights to books only (Hobbit and LOTR, no other books) not movies, so they have no rights to music.

  12. #12
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Quote Originally Posted by durinsbane View Post
    Turbine has rights to books only (Hobbit and LOTR, no other books) not movies, so they have no rights to music.
    Its more like they have the right to create a mmo based on the works.

  13. #13
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Quote Originally Posted by durinsbane View Post
    Turbine has rights to books only (Hobbit and LOTR, no other books) not movies, so they have no rights to music.
    and yet the incorperate the songs from the movie into the in game music. Not to mention alot of the artwork is similar to stuff you see in teh movie. Weather top, Trolls,styles of Dress. That fancy Quiver Legolas uses. etc

  14. #14
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Quote Originally Posted by Ferumac View Post
    and yet the incorperate the songs from the movie into the in game music. Not to mention alot of the artwork is similar to stuff you see in teh movie. Weather top, Trolls,styles of Dress. That fancy Quiver Legolas uses. etc
    Which songs from the movies did Turbine incorporate into this game?

    Just watched FoTR again last night. Weathertop in the movie and Weathertop in this game bear no resemblence to each other. The version in this game is much better, in my opinion, than that in the movie.

    Things may look and sound similar but that is not the same as an outright copy. After all trolls are all ugly and most everyone's version of one is similar. Mediaeval garb is all going to look similar. It is period fashion based on historical documents.
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    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    Watch out for Metallica, they're probably in game right now hunting down those who illegally play they're songs.

  16. #16

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    How do cover bands get away with it then lol they even get PAID to play other ppl's music
    Is it still considered in public if yer on a private copmpany's server?
    Last edited by buddahcjcc222; Mar 27 2009 at 02:04 PM.

  17. #17

    Re: Copyright Questions Answered

    In the case of bar bands, the establishment is paying a charge to one of the copyright offices that will gets distributed to all artist. thats why many bars and restaurants don't have live music. It's just another thing for them to pay.
    [charsig=http://lotrosigs.level3.turbine.com/022040000000570b6/signature.png]Findeladan[/charsig]

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    Happy Birthday to You

    In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim to 'Happy Birthday' To You' was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody. In February 2016 Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million and sent the song into the public domain.

 

 

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