Do I run into legal problems when creating this plugin?

Hi,
I have an idea for a plugin, but I’m not sure if I would run into legal problems.
I want to create a plugin that allow people to create a model of their own instrument.
A user with a piano can for instance record all kind of piano tones and the plugin will create a model from this to simulate this piano sound as good as possible.
So far this is off course ok. But I want people to be able to share their created models with others by uploading the model to the cloud where other people can download it. So other people can than run the simulation of my piano.
Is this legally allowed? And can the user who made the model ask some money for it?

It is legal to record your piano sound and sell it. Otherwise nobody could create and sell piano music.
But is it legal to record piano sound and sell it as samples to be used in a sampler? If so, then createing a model from it and selling that is legal too. Isn’t it?
Does it change when the model maker does not ask money for it?

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not official legal advice. If you are serious about investing significant time/money into this project, the only concrete advice I’m qualified to give you is to hire a lawyer, even if just for a single consult session.

With that out of the way, my intuition tells me: the real sticking point is likely to be the ownership of the recorded samples (does the user own them, or do you?). Hypothetically, in order for a piano manufacturer to have any sort of grounds to sue over these samples, you would need to be specifically marketing the samples as being samples of their specific model of piano. In your scenario, it sounds like the naming of the uploaded samples is going to be highly dependent on what the user chooses to call it – one user might choose to list the exact model & serial number of their Yamaha piano, and another user might choose to just call their model “dark moody piano”. Obviously Yamaha would probably have more grounds to take issue with the model explicitly naming Yamaha than the other one, but again, I’m not a lawyer ¯\(ツ)

Does it change when the model maker does not ask money for it?

Possibly. You could declare all the samples public domain, in which case they may fall under “fair use”, which as far as I understand is a fairly vague and broad term that can cover various usages of copyrighted materials for educational, satirical, or other non-profit purposes.

These issues may also vary depending on what country your company is in and what country the user is in.

Moving past the legality, I also want to warn you that you may run into several logistical issues with this project. First, if it takes off massively and you get thousands of models uploaded, suddenly you will need to come up with a solution for storing these giga- (terra-?) bytes of files. This can be quite expensive, and may even bankrupt the project if you’re not careful. Second, every model submitted will only be as good as the person who recorded it: their equipment, room, and how thorough they are in recording every note clearly. You will either end up with a store cluttered with crappy models, or you will need to invest time/money into moderating submissions in some way.

A piano or analog synthesizer, whoever plays the piano/synth would be the owner of the copyright to the recording. The device manufacturer could make no claim. However a sampler or a digital synth that uses samples, the device manufacturer could make claim to those samples, and therefore when they get copied to the output, that copyright remains. Usually such a synth will have an EULA that says creating songs with the synth is permitted, but you may not dump the samples and resell them. Creating a model from those copyrighted samples is probably not ok.

As long as no samples are used, the user would own the copyright to their model and could sell it or give it away.

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I wonder how Access Analog handles this. I haven’t actually used them before, but they appear to have only a select number of brands. I would guess that they’ve worked something out legally with those specific companies.

Sampling an acoustic instrument is not trivial. I doubt someone without a studio, sound engineering experience and a lot of time at their hands would be able to come anywhere close to the quality that is already widely available. The idea of a “marketplace” sounds tempting, but I don’t see a business case. This market is saturated. The costs of hosting and moderating a platform are high.

On the other hand, there may be interest in a utility that takes any number of samples and does all the trimming, normalizing, velocity mapping, loop detection and pitch mapping automatically with AI. Competition certainly exists, but since this is B2B, you may have a product that sells at a much higher price.

Oh, and the legal question: Using a trademark for business purposes always requires an agreement. Some sampled piano libraries wouldn’t sell much if they weren’t named after a famous piano brand.

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One problem could arise if the uploaded model specifies a brand name and model. If you want to sell a model that emulates a specific make/model, and you want to SAY that’s what it models, then you’d need permission to do so. It’s a trademark issue in that case, not a copyright issue.

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Even if you say that it ‘sounds’ like some brand?

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I’d ask a lawyer who specializes in such things. Not sure exactly where the “fair use” line is in that case.

As ans has said sampling an acoustic instrument is no picnic.
Alternatively if you want to speed up the sampling of hardware or soft instruments there is already software to do that: https://www.extranslator.com/. I personally love it and by the frequency of its updates I guess the dev is not getting rich with it (you are all encouraged to support him). Full disclaimer: I am not him :wink: lol

Hello

There are already thousands of models of guitar amps or guitar pedals … Just check the ToneX website (ToneNET - AmpliTube presets sharing community).
Some people are making a living selling amp models (https://www.amalgamcaptures.com/).
If it was possible for the amp manufacturers like Marshall or Mesa Boogie to sue, they will do it but they are not. In fact, Mesa Boogie just starts to sell the amp models of its own amps … so they embrace the tide …

Good luck with your plugin

You can do anything as long as it doesn’t infringe any rights. There is no protection on something like the sound of an instrument. But there is copyright on recordings of instruments. So you can sample a synth, but you can’t sample a sampled instrument (because you’re basically copying a recording).

Training an ML model on a sampled instrument however is probably fine (or at least a very grey area), as long as it doesn’t make copies of samples in some way (which can be hard to prove or disprove though).

The other part as mentioned is trademarks. You can’t use the name of the original thing without permission. That includes claiming that it “sounds like”, as you’re then using the trademark to market your own products. But you can circumvent it for example by calling a Marshall “British” and using some renderings of something that looks similar to a Marshall.