In early August 2022, an article titled "ロイヤルティフリーサンプルが原因の著作権侵害申し立ての話とLofiシーンのワンパターン化について" was published on note.com. The article was written by Refeeld and reviewed by Interspersed Records staff.
We publish an English version of that article. The original version can be found on Refeeld's note.com blog.
I posted the following tweet and received more responses than I expected.
In a case that you are filed a petition for infringement of copyright because of a sample from Splice in your music, it makes many record labels completely forbid samples (or only loops) from Splice.
I saw a tweet that says "Although it was a piece of music I made, they misunderstood that it was another person's work, and it was rejected when I requested a music streaming service to release it! I used only royalty-free samples...", I thought "It could happen." and posted the tweet above.
I'm going to introduce the ways to avoid such a problem based on the cased I know and my guesses in this article.
The contents in this article are Refeeld's personal observation and mistakes of fact can be included. Please contact me on Twitter if you want to point out some mistakes.
About the writer
I'm Refeeld who composes and released Lofi, Chill and Electronic music. I have released my music not only on the important foreign online music labels in the Lofi music scene, such as "Lofi Girl" and "Collage Music" but also from the project "SACRA BEATS" by Sony Music Labels.https://www.refeeld.com
About royalty-free samples and copyright protection
Do you know royalty-free sample sales websites like "Splice" and "Loopcloud"? They are subscription services that you pay monthly fee to earn points every month and spend them to purchase samples.https://splice.com https://www.loopcloud.com/cloud/
Of course, you don't violate copyright as long as you use royalty-free samples from Splice, Loopcloud, etc. However, that's exactly why you should be carefully, especially, when you use loop samples with melody, chord progressions, etc. using music instruments.
It's no problem that you release music you composed using royalty-free samples by Splice, Loopcloud, etc. on music streaming services. It means there are people who do the same thing. And the sound and melody of those music are protected by copyright.
Case of a petition in infringement of copyright on YouTube Live
Let's change the topic.
Lofi Girl, where I used to release my music at, suddenly stopped their live streaming on July 10, 2022. It's available again now.
Lofi Girl explained "The lofi radios have been taken down because of false copyright strikes." All music Lofi Girl live-streams were released from Lofi Girl, so the copyright of them are owned by Lofi Girl. So Lofi Girl doesn't violate copyright.https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/youtube-says-will-reinstate-lofi-girls-live-streams-false-copyright-cl-rcna37613
I'll keep the details secret, though, the message below was announced by some music labels to artists after this problem happened this year.
"We reject releasing music composed with free samples like Splice."
This was a message that was sent to artists directly and also stated on the submission form on the labels' websites. As for the Lofi Girl's case, I guess someone maliciously sent a petition against Lofi Girl in infringement of copyright to YouTube, and YouTube falsely detected their music as another label's music with the same royalty-free loops, then stopped their streaming.
Reason why music with samples is falsely detected
In the Lofi Girl case, copyrights of both pieces of music that were misunderstood to violate and to be violated are protected and owned by music labels. I don't know whether a bot or a human checked them, though, the works of music with the same samples can be recognized as the same one.
According to above, the person whose piece of music was rejected by a music streaming service at the beginning of this article might be like this.
He requested them to release his music
The distributor checked the music
They falsely detected it as another copyrighted music because of the sample used
They rejected releasing his music
How to avoid the issue
The common way to avoid it is to change the free sample drastically like changing the pitch or tempo, chopping the loop or adding a lot of effects. It reduces the possibility that your work will be falsely detected as copyright violation. I cannot say 0%, though. You might want to use the samples and loops as they are, but you cannot help if your piece will be falsely detected unless you pose a challenge to a distributor or YouTube.
As long as you use royalty-free samples and loops, nobody violates copyright, and nobody does anything wrong. But the music with them is protected by copyright, so the cause of the issue is YouTube and distributors who check the works.
The reason why I wrote
"that's exactly why you should be carefully"
is that Splice and Loopcloud have many users, so many people use the same samples. It means that the possibility that your music will rejected can be high.
"especially, when you use loop samples with melody, chord progressions, etc. using music instruments."
I meant that melody and chord progressions can be the causes of false detection. Most people cannot tell which music it is when they listen to the sound of the drums. But even if you listen to only melody or chord progressions, you can tell what music it is, right? This is what I mean.
My thoughts of this issue
Since Internet copyright protection technology has been improved, any music genre should be careful about this issue. And I think especially Lofi music needs to face this problem.
First, the root of Lofi music. The origin of Lofi music is to add some beat to a sampling existent music. For example, Nujabes has made a lot of music that can be called the roots of Lofi music. He used the sample from the music "Qualquer Dia" by Ivan Lins for "Luv (Sic) Pt.2" which is my favorite.
Historically, many pieces of music used samples of other's copyrighted works without permission, and there is no excuse when they were sued. The workflow of beat-making still existent in this clean Lofi scene now. It's using royalty-free loop samples. However, the works can be falsely detected as copyright violation as long as many people use the same loop samples to compose music.
Second, excessive commercialization of Lofi music.
I understand that there are arguments for and against my opinion because this is a difficult point, though, I think recent Lofi scene is excessively commercialized and both artists and labels tend to think that they can earn money by releasing Lofi-like music. In order to avoid high production costs, it's common that they use royalty-free loop samples without processing and add beats to them. Everyone has different sense of value, so I cannot blame those music. Besides, they were composed based on license so there is no problem. But in my opinion, such a process of music composition drastically increased the number of Lofi music works and made them become stereotyped. Then they accelerate false detection of copyright violation.
I have many questions about modern Lofi scene. On the other hand, I rarely use free loop samples with melody and chord progressions, but I'm still a part of this situation as long as I release my own works in this scene, and I cannot strongly disagree with the current conditions of the scene since I make a living by it.
I still love Lofi music and listen to it every day and compose new music with originality every day. This is only what I can strongly say.
Thank you for reading this article.