What If You Could Recreate Live Performances By Dead Artists On A Computer?

from the helloooooo-copyright-fight dept

Via Shocklee comes this story of a company that claims to have created software that can recreate live performances by famous musicians (even dead ones). Basically, the software learns (or so its creators claim) exactly how certain musicians played, and then can mimic that style exactly. Here’s how Pocket Lint describes it:

Zenph Studio’s approach is to work out how the musician and the instrument acts and responds, then get a computer to play that track again as a real-time, real-life performance, which in turn can be recorded using modern techniques. The new track isn’t a re-mastering, but a re-performance, as if the musician was actually playing it even though the artist may or may not be dead.

The technology works by ascertaining how an artist strikes a note and then recreating that note again. For the piano, the company takes into account everything from how an artist strikes a note to their hand movement, how they play when tired (yes, it can recreate fatigue) and even, as for the case of Jerry Lee Lewis, how they play with their feet. For the guitar there is even more to take into account, like pad placement, fingernails, and bending of the strings, the list goes on.

The result is that songs recorded 100 years ago can and will be able to be re-recorded with modern recording equipment, allowing old songs to be revitalised and enjoyed once more “in surround sound or headphone listening”.

And, of course, the technology goes well beyond just remastering. In theory, you could create entirely new recordings by long-dead artists, matching their exact styles. As the article suggests, you could toss John Lennon into a Rolling Stones song.

Of course, if this sounds sorta familiar, that’s because we were just talking about the legal mess associated with Bluebeat.com’s claims that the music it offers from its site for sale are not the original works by bands like the Beatles, but an entirely new recording through a “psycho-acoustic simulation.”

So, now, take this software that supposedly can perfectly mimic a certain musician’s playing, and have it record a song. Say it’s a new song. Who owns the copyright? What if it’s adding John Lennon to a Rolling Stone’s song? Who owns the copyright? What if it’s an old song, updated in some slight way? Who owns the copyright? What if it’s just the same song but “remastered”? Who owns the copyright? The legal questions raised by this kind of software are going to keep copyright lawyers busy for a long, long time.

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Companies: zenph studio

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Comments on “What If You Could Recreate Live Performances By Dead Artists On A Computer?”

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iNtrigued (profile) says:

If these were smart lawyers *Oxymoron?*

*Not sure what happened with my first comment*

The lawyers should wait a couple months after this software has been in use, that way they would not only get payed to form the rules but litigate as well. Damn, this is going to make them filthy, stinking rich. Meanwhile, innovation dies from red tape asphyxiation.

Anonymous Coward says:

What if you take all the more famous musicians and have them work on a mash-up of all their famous work.

A collage of some sort. Now collage has been used as a means of artistic expression for over a centruy; it has a wide and very varied history.

So who owns the copyright? What if they’re all musicians from the past decade? Who owns the copyright? What if it’s only 10 musicians and 10 of their songs. 20? 5?

Who owns the copyright? Dicey!

Katherine Warman Kern (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If each artist were paid a license fee then the original copyright would be maintained and the curator who adds value is also paid.

Make the license fee variable – relative to the commercial value of the curated product.

Need a universal transaction system to make this process as friction-free as possible. The transaction system should be “two way” – earn credits when your work is curated/distributed and pay debits when you curate/distribute the work of others.

Over the Air Television and Radio had to be free. All stakeholders had to find a way to get paid in-directly. The result is a vicious cycle of content creators, publishers/programmers, distributors, and audience “using” each other.

New media technologies offer an opportunity to break the vicious cycle and pay people for what they do relative to demand, creating a virtuous network that nurtures creativity.

Danny (profile) says:

Riddle me this, Batman...

What about Frank Gorshen? And Rich Little, and other impersonators?

Isn’t this what they’ve been doing all along? They perform a “psycho-accoustic” re-creation of the original artist (whether dead or alive) sometimes repeating work originally done and sometimes putting their re-created artist into an entirely new situation.

Is there established case law on the IP relationship between artists and their impersonators?

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Riddle me this, Batman...

Not IP, but closely related areas. And you’ll be shocked to learn that they are as stupid as IP. For instance, there was once a television ad in which a robot in a fancy dress turned the letters on a gameshow that looked like Wheel of Fortune. Vanna White sued, and won, on the remarkable theory that the robot had misappropriated her likeness for commercial gain.

What it comes down to is that celebs (and increasingly, just anyone) may have a property right in their likeness, however defined. So impersonators have to tread a bit of a line – as will this technology.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We have the technology to replicate a performance that was captured in the past. For artists that are long dead.

It’s a good thing that there are laws preventing this perversion of culture. Pay up! Some multi-national corporate trust owns the works to Some Dead Artist and if you’re going to represent that work to a modern-day audience, to share that work, well, just stop.

That’s not what artistic expression is for.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not really difficult.

1) If you re-record an existing song, the song is under copyright. A computer program or a perfectly mimicking “real musician” is the same.

2) If you record a new song, guess what? it’s a new song, and you own the rights. Except for one little detail: You cannot claim a relationship to the original artist,as that would be using their image, likeness, or other without permission.

I would say in the case of Bluebeat, they are just trying to be very coy and sneaky about stealing other people’s material. Running a song through a series of filters and whatnot doesn’t create a new song, the performance is still the original.

Which brings up the third point:

3) If any of the sounds of whatnot used to make a new song are samples of an old song, you are screwed solid.

Which touches the other point: the use of original material as a source for the mimicking. If the computer program generates it’s likeness by using existing songs and processing them, it might still be a derivative work.

I saw a show about a year ago that had some classical music done this way, and honestly, the end product was nice, but lacked a certain amount of heart.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Then the public can make their own new songs for personal use and they shouldn’t have much problem as long as they don’t distribute.

That’s where I think music is ultimately headed. Give everyone the tools to make their own music. I don’t think they will need to reproduce anyone else’s music. They will be able to make their own originals.

I see music creation becoming so diffuse that everyone will do it, to some degree or another.

AndyB (profile) says:

Good ol' compulsory license

Harry Fox, here we come. Yes, the songs would be based off of copyrighted works, but compulsory licensing for “covers” have been around since the 1909 Act.

To me, this is an “electronic cover” and would cost whoever made such recreations about $.09/copy. Not free but certainly manageable if you wanted to use the system to release “concerts” by known artists.

There are 2 copyrights usually at issue with songs- the melody/lyrics/etc.. (song writer) and the sound recording made and distributed (record company).

This would likely not infringe the sound recording copyrights of record companies. Record execs would likely fight this vigorously and if needed get Congress to step in to “save the children”, but as the Copyright Act is written if you re-create a song rather than copy it, you are in the clear with regards to the record companies. You still need to clear the song writer copyright though – which is where Harry Fox Agency comes in.

Another example of why the 19th century approach we take to copyright makes no sense.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Disruptive technology alert ....

A few months back techdirt did an article on how the Authors Guild was against the kindle reading outloud because it violated copyright. The authors didnt want things to change. RIAA and the music industry will eventually see how much of a threat this technology is to them. This technology empowers ASCAPs because all that will be needed is sheet music. And someone to sing to the music.

When someone creates software to do the same thing with peoples voices that is a true disruptive technology. The end result will be rapid reduction in value of the music catalogs held by the labels.

This will eventually allow anyone to create music using, any artists, singing in any voice, with any musicians, to any sheet music. And when anyone with a laptop and the software for both musical instruments, and voice can create any music they want on the fly. Its the death of the Music Labels …..

…. Oh and that day is only about 5 years off.

Anonymous Coward says:

So suppose you have an artist who made a lot of works under the 1909 act and never renewed the copyright, so those works are now in the public domain. For other works of the same artist the copyright was renewed, so those works are still under copyright. Now you take this software and apply it to the public domain works, and you use it to recreate the in-copyright works.


Beta says:

This is just the beginning.

I cringe at the idea of bad music being played by a simulacrum of Lennon, but think further ahead. We (some of us) love Lennon for much of what he was, not just his fingering style. Once we’re used to the idea that a robot can imitate his fingering, we’ll understand that that’s all it is, and we can move on: what if we mix Lennon and Elvis? What if we make an exaggerated Lennon (by moving the parameters even further away from average)? What does anti-Lennon sound like? What if we compare early Lennon to late Lennon, and maybe extrapolate to how he’d sound now? What happens when we start making artificial “players”, sharing them with friends, mating them? How about players on the internet, competing and breeding, using audience demand as a fitness function?

Eventually the tools to do this will be open-source and freely available. Any teenager with a computer and some Beatles CDs will be able to infer a Lennon-like player. These things will happen whether the lawyers like it or not. The only limiting factor is whether any of this stuff sounds any good.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

Re: This is just the beginning.

I remember listening to Buddy Guy and BB King talking about playing live. They were saying that it happens that you make an error and then you try to repeat so that no one would think that it was an error. Can’t recreate that with a robot. That’s why the live performace is the true scarcity in the parlayance of this blog. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

not sure why people would want to hear computerized retakes of songs when they can just listen to the originals. It sounds like a great tool for song writers looking to capture an artist’s playing style into one of their own songs though.

On a slightly related tangent, just wait until they have computer generated literatue based on authors writing styles. Imagine a Mark Twain meets JD Salinger novel, or an Emily Dickinson teamed up with Shel Silverstein poem :0

cc says:

This technology is interesting, though I’m sure it’s far more limited than they make out. This is how I believe it works: the music is analysed and the actual notes are extracted, with exact information about pressure, attack, decay etc for each. The result is a midi file, which they can then record with new samples.

Technically speaking, they distill the “soul” out of the music and slap a new skin on top of it. No portions of the old song will exist in the new song. BUT, this technology will be limited to music with just one instrument, as the analysis wouldn’t be able to tell instruments apart. The end result is synthesized music, which can never sound as good as the real thing (though it can come close with relatively inexpressive instruments like the piano — I doubt a guitar would sound that great).

So, no. I don’t think this technology will be breaking any copyrights anytime soon.

Rabbit80 says:

Re: Re:

Actually, I would have thought that ANY stringed instrument would be fairly easy to recreate – after all, it is not too difficult to simulate a string vibrating. Percussive instruments are also easy.

Brass on the other hand is extremely difficult – there are simply too many variables at play – such as air flow, embouchure, slide positions, etc (ie – the stuff the player does) to the thickness of the metal, the lacquer on the instrument, any dents, the shape of the instrument etc..

ChadBroChill (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Actually, I would have thought that ANY stringed instrument would be fairly easy to recreate – after all, it is not too difficult to simulate a string vibrating. Percussive instruments are also easy.”

Actually, these instruments would be very difficult as well, because there are an infinite number of ways to strike, stroke, pluck, push, pick, or otherwise interact with a string or percussive instrument. There are at least as many ways to interact with a string or percussive instrument as a brass or woodwind.

Katherine Warman Kern (profile) says:

recreating live performances

This is copying.

If it is not for commercial (read: to make money) it is fair use.

If it is for commercial use (read: to make money) it is copyright infringement.

If it is distributed without a license fee to market a site that is not commercial – it is fair use. If the site being marketed is commercial – it is copyright infringement.

If both the distribution and source are not collecting money, but a 3rd party (i.e., ISP, wireless provider) is collecting money to provide access to this free content, then it is a commercial use and is a copyright infringement by the 3rd party who is collecting money.

The fact that new media technologies add many more links to the value chain and it takes more steps to follow the money should not change copyright protection.

Without copyright protection we have no way to fund art/creativity/freedom of expression.

I understand that many think that only “old” media publishers and programmers benefit from copyright protection. I think we are missing the point that the internet provides an opportunity for independent content creators to compete for attention. But only if they can make a living doing it.

Katherine Warman Kern

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