Two musicians have gone to the effort of writing every possible MIDI melody in existence on a hard drive, before copyrighting their work and releasing it to the public in a bid to stop musicians from getting sued.
Musician, programmer and copyright attorney Damien Riel has joined forces with fellow programmer Noah Rubin to half copyright lawsuits that they believe threaten the creative freedom of artists.
As Vice reports, copyright cases for song melodies often hang on artists being accused of “subconsciously” copying melodies if it’s highly possible they may have heard the song before.
One famous case saw Sam Smith handing a songwriting credit to Tom Petty after the latter’s estate argued that Smith’s ‘Stay Me’ sounded remarkably similar to Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’.
But Riehl and Rubin hope that by releasing the melodies publicly, they will prevent a large chunk of these cases from going to court.
Discussing their ambitious project, Riehl explained that they complied the database by algorithmically determining every melody contained within a single octave.
In order to complete the project, the pair developed an algorithm that was capable of recording every possible 8-note, 12-beat melody combo. Riehl says the algorithm works at a rate of 300,000 melodies per second.
“Under copyright law, numbers are facts, and under copyright law, facts either have thin copyright, almost no copyright, or no copyright at all,” Riehl explained.
“So maybe if these numbers have existed since the beginning of time and we’re just plucking them out, maybe melodies are just math, which is just facts, which is not copyrightable.”
At present, it remains to be seen whether their project will stand up in court.