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I want to use a public domain piece found on YouTube but it was recorded in midi form by someone else. I only want sections of it, not the whole thing. Do I need permission?

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Yes, you need permission. Only the pattern of notes themselves is in the public domain.

Any arrangement, performance, or recording of the piece is its own creative work - and this recording sounds like it was made somewhat recently, so it would not yet have entered public domain itself. To use it in your game or other work, you would need a licence from the party who owns the rights to that particular recording.

If you recorded your own performance of the piece however, you would not need an additional licence if the source material is in the public domain. (If using electronic samples in your performance, be sure you have the licence to use those in this manner, of course)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What about Fair Use? I am making the recording of this person into a parody. And only using parts of it, at that. Does Fair Use still require me to get permission? Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Barry Sep 2 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ As has been noted in past Q&A, "Fair Use" is a defense, not immunity - if the rights-holder takes issue with your use of their work, they could issue a DMCA takedown against your work or take you to court, and the burden would be on you to defend that your use is "fair". Note too that "parody" typically applies to public figures like politicians & celebrities. If this person is just a random YouTuber, then using their work to make fun of them could easily cross the line into cyber-bullying or harassment. You can probably find better jokes. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Sep 2 at 19:10

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