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Using copyrighted audio during an experiment, part 2 - MIDI stimuli?

Thanks for the responses on and off list. I've copy-pasted some of these below, for those interested.  It seems the consensus is that use of music in an experimental context (where subjects either bring in their own music, or music is provided by the experimenter, but does not "change hands") would constitute fair use.

The situation we're dealing with is slightly different, in that it involves *MIDI* versions of commercial recordings [posted publicly on the web; e.g., http://home.swipnet.se/~w-54954/midi.htm ... hello 1990s!] that subjects would actually walk out of the lab with (or download). If folks have additional thoughts on this, they are most welcome.


Rob Ellis

[responses posted below]


From Dan Stowell:

Is "fair use" needed? I'm not a lawyer, and of course the answer depends what country you're in, but I would have thought most experiments don't count as public performance or broadcast or publishing. (Similarly to the way we don't pay royalties if we play music while our friends are round at our house.)


From David Smith:

I'm not a lawyer but I have a good general understanding of copyright.

Rule of thumb:  Copyright restricts publishing for profit, not use.

If you're playing music in a private setting for a few test subjects you can use as much as you want without notice or payment.
This is research.  

The same way, you can invite friends to a party and play music.  If you are charging to enter (the party), it's a business.
If you have customers who are paying to hear the music, you would need to pay public performance royalties.

Iif you are using the web for your research and inviting the public to take part as subjects - you are creating 
a way for the public to access material for which you do not own the copyright,  you will need a copyright lawyer.
They will probably treat you like an "access-on-demand"  digital radio services, so it will cost a few cents for each "play".

From Davide Andrea Mauro:

I think that it mostly depends on the country where you are planning to perform the study. In my country (Italy) I'm pretty sure you can use everything you want (as long as you pay for the original recording) for research purposes. So, if you plan to do a clinical study within an hospital, you just buy a CD and then you can use it.


From John O'Connell:

Plink: "Thin Slices" of Music
Author(s): Carol L. Krumhansl
Source: Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 27, No. 5
(June 2010), pp. 337-354
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/mp.2010.27.5.337 .

You might send a mail to Carol Krumhansl, perhaps she has already
looked into the whole copyright mess and can offer you some advice...
The experiments detailed in the paper featured music from the
following familiar names  (I'm pretty sure it is all copyrighted ;)


From Robert Zatorre:


We have used real recorded music for several experiments. But we either bought the recordings ourselves or used recordings bought and paid for by our participants (who brought them to the lab for the purpose of the study). Once you have the recording, you are allowed to play it aren't you? Isn't that the whole point of buying a recording, so you can listen to it? So I'm not sure why it would make a difference if you have a CD and play it during a party, or play it while someone is inside an fMRI scanner, as we have done (except that the party is more fun).

Then again, if you ask an intellectual property lawyer you might get another answer. 

Let us all know if you find out anything different; but so far none of us who have used such stimuli have been arrested or fined ;)