About an unsuccessful attempt to brute force copyright or 68 billion tunes that will not change anything

A month ago, the world learned about the bold project of Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin, who caught quite a bit of hype on the fact that they generated “all possible“ unique combinations of “8 notes”, registered copyrights to them and how “Authors” have given them the status of the public domain. Habru about this news was reported by denis-19.

For those who missed this notable event, Noah Rubin and his project partner are convinced that in this way they will be able to end the numerous lawsuits between composers, musicians and producers who “stifle creativity and freedom”. After thinking about this concept, I came to the conclusion that, despite the excellent idea, from a legal point of view, the method is likely to change nothing. Under the cut, we understand why the brute force of musical copyright cannot work.

At first sight

At first, all advocates of “creative freedom” and the haters of copyright rejoiced. After all, now “all possible” unique combinations of notes are in the public domain. This immediately raises a legally significant question – can these combinations, in principle, be subject to copyright? From the standpoint of Russian legislation, as well as the laws of the vast majority of developed and developing countries, such an object is the result of “creative activity”, and accordingly, this is the result of human activity.

If combinations of notes are brute force algorithm, then how can they be recognized as the result of creative activity? The algorithm itself, let’s say, is the result of creative activity, since it was written by a person, and, accordingly, it falls under the norms of copyright, and the result of the algorithm is just a combination of notes, but not a product of creativity.

That is, in fact, in order to recognize 68 billion compositions as a product of creative activity, they must be written by a person. For example, to be born in agony, in the head of a half-drunk creator behind a smoked piano, or be born with some other signs of cryogenic activity of the higher nervous activity of the cerebral cortex.

And even if the result of the torment is identical to the one that generated the algorithm, then the first de jure can be recognized as a work and the result of creativity, and the second not. At the same time, Riel and Rubin made it clear that billions of “melodies” (combinations of notes) were created exclusively by the algorithm. The authorship of the algorithm in this situation does not matter. Accordingly, these melodies, in most countries of the world, cannot be recognized as a product of creative activity and, therefore, become the subject of copyright.

Music is not only a melody

I believe that many have already thought that the creation of new melodies usually occurs within the framework of mathematical combinations of notes. Probably, many were visited by the idea that there are only seven notes (and five half-tones, and also a note “before” the next octave), and within the framework of this system the number of combinations is limited. And although in authors’ disputes the problem, as a rule, is the melodic component of the works, music is far from just a melody. Equally important for a piece of music are the rhythm and timbral component. Even with the same melody, they can change the work beyond recognition.
For example, the first definition Google’s music gives is:

“An art in which experiences, feelings and ideas are expressed in rhythmically and intonationally organized sounds, as well as the works of this art themselves.”

The algorithm does not experience emotions and emotions, does not express ideas, and also does not take into account the rhythmic component. Thus, such combinations of notes cannot be recognized as music in the full sense of the word and, therefore, as a musical work. An integrated approach to the definition of musical works and music completely deprives chances of the bold project of Riel and Rubin to become a sufficient evidence base and stop any legal debate about plagiarism.

Also, 68 billion tunes will not solve the problem of the work, which I cited below. It consists entirely of two others, the copyright to which does not belong to the creator of the final product, while the work is completely unique:


The algorithmic generation and inclusion of certain sound combinations in the public domain also makes them neither music in the generally accepted sense, nor a product of creativity from a legal point of view. Thus, the project can only demonstrate to others the absurdity of disputes due to combinations of notes that many understand without it. However, with all the obvious limitations of musical combinatorics, the content they created is not able to be evidence in court, as it was originally intended.

I will be sincerely glad to see in the comments various points of view on this project and the problems associated with copyright in musical works. I am sincerely convinced that in a musical work its subjective value to the listener is important, and not the fact of its copyright. However, we all observe a problem in which the impeccable system of legal relations is not a perfect brake.

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