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I'm working on an indie rhythm game for Android that uses pre-existing music. We got the OK from the original artist to use said music on the condition that we release the game for free. However, Google Play documentation -- specifically here: Play Console Help - Intellectual Property -- recommends that we submit "written documentation" proving we have permission to use the artist's intellectual property in order to help prevent copyright strikes.

However, I don't know what form this documentation should take. For example, will Google accept an email exchange between us and the artist wherein they state that we have permission to use their music, or do we need something more "official" like a signed permission letter?

I reached out to Google Play support via this link (Play Console Help - Contact Us) to ask about the types of documents they'd accept, but the representative only said, "Unfortunately, I'm not able to confirm if the receipts of the conversation via email are enough. If you think your app is compliant, you may try to send your app for review."

The advice I'm seeing on other forums so far is to speak with a lawyer just to be safe. I think this is good advice and I'm taking steps to do so. However, I wanted to ask around in case anyone had been in a similar situation before and knew what sort of documentation Google Play might accept.

Thank you in advance!

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really an answer to your question -- but note that a written contract is strictly required (in some jurisdictions) for an actual transfer of copyright, but mere license to use a copyrighted work doesn't require it as a strict legal matter. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2023 at 11:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Google can have more stringent standards if they choose to, and it's not going to hurt you to comply with them (unless the artist who was glad to grant you permission informally would want payment for signing a contract -- but since one of the elements of making a contract binding is that both sides gain something by it ("consideration"), that's generally an expectation regardless even if it's a $1 pro-forma payment). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2023 at 11:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why a lawyer particularly needs to be involved here (other than the general benefit of having one on retainer). The question seems like you're dealing with a potential blocking of your app by Google, rather than someone suing you, since the owner of the music already gave you their agreement. While Google might want that approval in a different format for their own reasons, the approval has been given to you though. So what potential litigation are you thinking of? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flater
    Oct 15, 2023 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Flater That's a fair point, this is more of a Google issue than a legal one. My main reason for seeking out legal advice is because I've had trouble getting a clear answer of what Google will/won't accept out of Google themselves. So I started wondering if they're expecting some sort of legal documentation, such as a contract, agreement, or some such. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2023 at 2:08

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Ideally you should have some manner of legally binding contract between you and your artist & I would expect that would satisfy their documentation requirements. As a somewhat related topic, you might also want to see another answer I posted that touches on secondary infringement.

If you don't have a contract, I would strongly recommend that you get one. A good contract works to the benefit of both sides, putting everyone on the same page, spelling out the mutual obligations of both parties. While emails could be submitted as evidence in the event that one party brings a dispute against the other, I would expect that such evidence wouldn't carry as much weight as a signed contract.

I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice and situations vary by jurisdiction. You've already been advised to consult an actual lawyer & I would agree that's a far safer basis for making business decisions than relying on the wisdom of internet strangers - after all we aren't contractually obligated to give you good advise ;)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Roger that, that all makes sense. Thank you so much! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 14, 2023 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would note that in general, a contract is established as soon as two parties agree -- the agreement may even be verbal. The benefit of a written, signed, contract is two-fold: it will generally be more explicit about the exact nature of the agreement, and it is easier to prove what the terms of the contract are should any dispute arise. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2023 at 16:03

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