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I have a curious question regarding on musics used in music rhythm game. In Guitar Hero for example, they used all different music albums in one program. Then, each album requires to ask permission to the owner, composer of the music, or the copyright owner of the music. Let's say, if you used 15 albums for the music rhythm game, then you have to contact 15 copyright owners and it might be that, for the game developer, that the profit earned goes to the copyright owner or owner of this music. For the independent game developers, was it okay if either used the copyright music by just mentioning the name of the singer included in the credits and in the music select screen or use the non-popular/old music that about 50 years ago? And, does still earn money for the indie game developers by making free downloadable game?

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You can avoid asking for licenses for music, if you can make your game automatically process some file/youtube url etc. given by player. Now it's player's responsibility what music he will load into the game. – Markus von Broady Oct 11 '12 at 6:59
Just like in the Music Hero for the Android, for example. You may play downloaded mp3 songs if it is available within the folder on the external drive or SD Card. Is this what you mean, Markus von Broady? – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 7:05
Yes, you may also move responsibility away from you by making a social network of some sort, where everyone has a possibility of creating game logic, that is inserting his music and manually synchronize timestamps on these color buttons on '5-line-road' in Guitar Hero. Now you can even do the work yourself, but pretend it was some anonymous user when you get copyright problems ;) – Markus von Broady Oct 11 '12 at 7:14
I wouldn't go the public domain path. I didn't see a song being in public domain for a looong time, because even classical, hundreds years old music is orchestrated recently, and so, while composition is old, performance itself is new. I'm far from being an expert in the field, but if you want a public domain music, you probably should start looking for a digital gramophone. – Markus von Broady Oct 11 '12 at 7:24
Don't go guessing about things like this. Get proper legal advice from a real lawyer. "The internet told me so" is not a valid defense. – Lars Viklund Oct 11 '12 at 16:21
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Neither being an indie developer, nor releasing game for free, doesn't grant you some additional rights implicitly. You can either need to have agreement with rights owner, or use music that is in public domain or other license (like CC license) that allows some sort of free usage.

Also as Markus correctly mentioned in comment, Public Domain is a tricky thing. So I guess you are more limited in classics than it may seems.

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In the public domain, this is where you can find and use any music without copyright restriction. Plus, does it also include songs other than the US enlisted in the public domain, like Japanese songs or J-Pop for short for example? – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 6:47
Hmmm...Okay. Thanks. – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 8:44
I guess it's all matter of a international law reach. You probably can't be sued by Japanese court being in US, however they can sue you in US court. If you need really deep knowledge on a subject, then only profesional lawyer can help you. – Petr Abdulin Oct 11 '12 at 9:50
Got it and thanks for the tip, Petr. True professionals must never give up in times of trials. ;-) – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 9:59
@DavidDimalanta In the public domain, this is where you can find and use any music without copyright restriction. Be careful there. Your statement, as worded, is incorrect. You can create musical compositions that are in the public domain, but you cannot use another musician's recording. – Cypher Oct 11 '12 at 16:49

Distributing copyrighted music without a license from the copyright owner is a violation of copyright, and is illegal in most parts of the world.

Yes, it's still a violation of copyright even if you distribute it for free.

Yes, it's still a violation of copyright even if you credit the artist.

Yes, it's still a violation of copyright even if you hold your breath until you go blue.

Distributing copyrighted music without a license from the copyright owner is a violation of copyright.


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How come Guitar Hero used all of the copyright music? Does it take months to have a grant to use all these musics? And also, does the game developer have a split share for profit with the copyright owner of the music or the profit will belong always to the copyright owner of the music? – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 6:50
Well then, thanks again. – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 8:46
And one thing, Trevor, this copyright music will only be used as long as I joined their copyright owner's company for profit, right? – David Dimalanta Oct 11 '12 at 8:52
The reason they use real, well-known music is because real, well-known music makes the product appeal to more people, selling more, making it well worth going through the pains of licensing and acquiring performances of well-known songs. – Lars Viklund Oct 11 '12 at 16:22

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