Wavetable copyright

I am allowed to use the sounds created by a synth that I own for any further use, right?

What about this:
I render one cycle of a waveform, perform Fourier analysis on it and incorporate it in my own synth as a waveform and then redistribute it.

Is this fair use?

Edit: I remember some synth manufacturer proudly claiming they “recreated” the waveforms of a classic synth into their own. (Namely the synth I’m planning to rip off is the bad guy in this anecdote :smile: )

My personal opinion:
To sell your synth, you will probably want to mention the original name, since that is what the users are interested in. In this case the problem is not recording the synth samples but trademark misuse, which is easier to prove and you attract attention automatically. I would strongly advise against.

My professional opinion:
Ask a lawyer

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This is bad, especially after announcing it here publicly how you plan to “rip off” another company.

Actually … many synths’ license agreements prohibit you from sampling a synth and using those samples (except for your own performances and recordings). E.g. take a look at the Spectrasonics agreement FAQ (and example of a very clear one - the restrictions are amazing). Some excerpts:

  • Can I distribute the music I’ve created with Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments in a “multitrack” format?
    One of the only things that is NOT allowed is distributing your music in a multitrack format that completely exposes tracks that were created using our samples. The problem in this case is that the separate tracks can then easily be reused in new works by the end-user of the music – someone who is not a licensed Spectrasonics user.
  • Am I allowed to distribute samples I’ve made of any of the factory libraries in my Spectrasonics Instruments?
    No. The Core Libraries in Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments are copyrighted sound recordings and may not be distributed. This includes any and all types of distribution. Their use in other sample libraries, sound FX libraries, sample-based hardware, or software products is specifically prohibited.
  • What if I extensively modify the factory sounds from my Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments?
    All modification, layering, and tweaking is still legally considered a “derivative work” based on copyrighted recordings, so any type of re-use or sample distribution like this is prohibited under the standard license. Use of this type would require specific clearance or a special license arranged with Spectrasonics in advance.
  • Am I allowed to distribute samples of my own original patches made with my Spectrasonics Instruments?
    Your own original patches created in Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments are based on our copyrighted material, so the answer would be NO in those cases. In the case of original user patches created SOLELY with the digital oscillators in the synthesizer section of Omnisphere (i.e using NO SAMPLES), this is permissible.
  • Am I permitted to distribute my samples from my Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments if it’s non-commercial?
    No. There’s no distinction between commercial and non-commercial distribution. The posting or sharing of your samples of Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments presents the same legal issues as commercial distribution.
  • What if it’s just for my own use and I don’t distribute the samples I’ve created?
    If you’re a licensed user, you are welcome to use your Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments and libraries to create new audio samples and loops for your own use. The important thing is not to distribute them.

In the Spectrasonics’ case, any redistribution, commercial or other, of their wavetables (outside of personal use and mixed recordings) is not allowed … Other vendors have similar restrictions but the fine print may be different: be careful and consult a lawyer.

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A rather poor choice of words on my side. I’m not going to harm anybody, that’s why I asked here in the first place. :slight_smile:

Yeah after thinking about it, it’s basically the same as redistributing samples. Makes perfect sense, thanks for your answer!

I didn’t know that. that’s really sad. sounds should be free. Is there similar limitations for hardware synths, guitars, drums, amplifiers, etc.?

I would argue that if you’re doing any kind of resynthesis (analyse the existing material and create it from scratch) instead of processing the original audio material, you’ll get away with it the same way someone would get away with remembering the entire JUCE codebase and writing it from scratch from his memory to make his “own” JUCE (since any copyright on code is just protecting the words you wrote instead of the functionality).

A lot of the wavetable synths I use have ‘ripped off’ some designs and wavetables from legacy digital and analogue synths in the first place. Some manufacturers probably have purer histories than others…

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I believe it is legal to sample any synth that generates it’s sounds with oscillators, filters & effects only. The output of none of those can be copyrighted.

Any synth that contains recordings / samples, and those samples are copyrighted and retain their copyright when they are copied into the synths output. The synth license agreement will say how the synth can be used, usually for making music only and not recording the individual samples.

Can a waveform in a wavetable be copyrighted? I highly doubt a saw, square, super saw etc can be copyrighted. Especially if it was generated with a formula or a electronic device. If it was recorded from human performance, or drawn by a human, then it probably is copyrighted.

Only creative works created by a human can be copyrighted. And that copyright only applies to the synths output if it a copy (modified or not) of the copyrighted material.

The circuit of analog synth can be copyrighted. But since the circuit isn’t copied to output, you’re free to sample it. It’s ok to create an 808 clone.

A patch for a digital FM synth can be copyrighted, and the code that implements the synth will be copyrighted. But again, neither is copied to output, so it’s ok to sample / recreate. It’s ok to create DX10 clone.

Samplers and Romplers copy their samples to the output. Not ok to record output individually as samples.

Hybrid synths are a grey area, some patches may use samples, others may not. You’ll need to look at the individual patch.

  • hardware synths - maybe? does it contain samples
  • guitars - no
  • drums - no
  • amplifiers - no

With my naive legal view, I guess the protection of samples doesn’t come from the sounds being protected, but the AGB of the instrument, that you mustn’t use it to produce your own instrument, like the case @tomto66 quoted above.
It will probably be a tough case to sue somebody for doing that.
But like I said before, the business value is in the brand. If you perfectly recreate a classic, you want to market it as such. If you don’t mention the original, I guess it will be hard for the other party to create a case against that.

I think its a crazy world where a single-cycle waveform for a wavetable synth can be copyrighted. In the Spectrasonics case, how many royalties have they paid to the manufacturers of the synths and effects they used to create their samples?

It reminds me of a certain D&B producer who forbade anyone to sample and use his own recorded drum loops in their tracks, after he’d made countless tracks using classic breakbeats, e.g. The Winston’s Amen Brother. How many royalties did The Winston’s get for the many thousands of tracks featuring their drum break?

d. The sound samples and musical examples that may be connected to the Software may NOT be reformatted, mixed, filtered, re-synthesized, or otherwise edited or altered for use in any kind of commercial sampling product/package or software - this is strictly prohibited without the express written consent of Propellerhead Software.

Case closed I guess. :slight_smile: although I’m not going commercial. But they made their point clear.

I think it’s fair for them to be able to protect their work if they spent resources creating them, and it is what sets their product apart. But like you said, then they should play by their own rules.

IANAL but if I recall correctly copyrights expire after 25 years - so using/sampling older drumbeats and riffs would be allowed for commercial works. How long companies like Spectrasonics and Propellerheads would want to enforce a license agreement (which technically is a different thing, like a contract) I have no idea.

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Also Not A Lawyer, but a search for “when does copyright expire” yields

Copyright expires 70 years after author’s death

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And repeating, EULA is NOT the same as copyright… by using the software you agreed to the EULA, so there is a binding contract.
A case would rather be based on that than copyright. Much clearer.

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Yup, my memory clearly failed me :smile: .

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I’m not positive but I believe there are lots of reaktor synths & hardware synths which are not bound by these terms. You can certainly find synths to sample for wave tables, you just need to check their EULA

It’s not royalties, but a nice gesture: