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Permissions/Copyright for VGM

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I hope this is the right forum for this query! 

I've recently joined a band (called Powerhouse, plug plug plug) which plays 'heavy metal/nerdy ceilidh' music - we take traditional and non-traditional folk tunes and mash them up with TV theme tunes, videogame songs, heavy metal tracks, movie themes, etc. We're looking at recording a short EP of some of these mash-ups so that we have something to promote ourselves with and look to get more gigs, but it seems that the copyright/permissions stuff is an absolute minefield, especially if you want to put songs up for free streaming/free download online - we're based in the UK, so PRS is the main body we'd have to deal with, but it's a nightmare figuring out what we can and can't do.

We were discussing this and it got me thinking - OCRemix is obviously cleared to post adaptations of copyrighted material for free and put them on Youtube/etc. Does anybody know if the OCR community operates under some kind of fair usage rules that would also apply to us? We'd be applying for a licence which would cover the sale of physical CDs at our gigs, but there must be some way that we can release stuff for free on the internet without getting DMCA/takedown notices from all of Hollywood/major record labels/videogame companies, right? I don't even know how we'd start asking Universal Pictures for permission to use the Back to the Future theme in a song...

I suppose one option would be to try and get one of our songs submitted to the site (we have a version of the Chemical Plant theme from Sonic 1 for heavy metal guitar, accordion, flute, bass and drums...) so we can just point people to that, but that's obviously not a given...

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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With releasing remixes or arrangements of game/movie/TV songs, you're pretty much at the mercy of whoever holds the rights to the music. Sure, you can get (or at least try to get) a license that will let you sell the covers you did. Others have done it, so it is possible and doable. But when it comes to hosting them for free on a website somewhere, it all depends on the copyright holder.

On that point, OCR wasn't really cleared by anyone. If someone at Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, SEGA, or whoever wanted to, they could demand OCR take down any and all remixes of the music that company holds the rights to. It would suck, and it would be something of a PR nightmare for that company, but they'd be well within their rights to demand it. At that point, OCR could either 1) try to come to some kind of agreement so the free songs could stay up, or 2) comply with the company's demand failing the first option. That's not to say the staff of OCR couldn't try to fight them in some way (fair use claims, etc.), but if they'd want to stay in the good graces of other game companies, raising a big stink over it wouldn't be the most advisable course of action. In fact, something like that's happened before with the mascots in the upper right corner of the website's pages. I believe it was Square-Enix who wanted their characters removed from the randomized roster, and OCR basically had to remove them. It was kind of an odd thing to get protective about with all of the Squenix remixes here, but...

Anyway, with that gloom and doom said, most gaming companies won't raise a stink about posting free remixes on Youtube or someplace like that. The occasional individual musician might (like what happened with Starr Mazer DSP), but it's less than likely you'll get a DMCA take-down notice because you remixed the Stage 1 theme from Psycho Fox. And when it comes to music used a movies, I don't know. The rights holders can get pissy at times with those mediums, but I don't recall hearing about great swaths of remixes of popular movie themes getting wiped from Youtube. So I doubt you'd get blindsided there with your BTTF theme.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I believe it was Square-Enix who wanted their characters removed from the randomized roster, and OCR basically had to remove them.

Yeah, but Square is and always has been a bunch of assholes, so...


I'm close to entirely certain that the only reason they haven't had the remixes here shitcanned is because it would explode in their faces like a nuke.

Edited by His Infinite Machine
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