Free Software Foundation advice on use of the GPL for music

Create music and sound effects for mainline or user-made content.

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irrevenant
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Free Software Foundation advice on use of the GPL for music

Post by irrevenant »

Sorry it took so long to post this. I actually got a reply days ago, but originally forgot to request permission to post it. :oops:

Now that the permission has arrived, here's the reply from Brett Smith, Free Software Foundation Licensing Team:

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Before I answer your questions, please understand that specific cases will always require specific analysis. These are general guidelines for understanding how the GPL interacts with other software and non-software data. If you can provide us with more details about your specific plans, we may be able to offer specific suggestions.
Irrevenant wrote:There is a game using GPL v2 for all its code and game content. A question has arisen whether the GPL is appropriate for the game data due to concerns that, under the GPL, the "preferred form of the work for making changes in it" must be made available.

There is special concern regarding the music, as the music (distributed as .ogg files under the GPL) is created with proprietary software using proprietary instrument samples. There is confusion as what is required to meet the "preferred form" requirement. A similar question exists regarding artwork where the "preferred form" is presumably the photoshop or gimp working files.
The preferred form will almost always be the form that the original author works in. So, yes, those would be the working files for the image manipulation program you use, or the composition file for your music software.

The proprietary samples raise a separate issue, however: you need to be certain that you can distribute the music you create under the GPL at all. If the license prohibits you from creating modified versions of the samples, or from giving others permission to do so, you effectively can't distribute the music under the GNU GPL at all, since anyone with an GPL'ed Ogg of the song could do any of these things. You should check all the relevant licenses for your music software and samples to see whether or not they provide you with enough permission to release your music under the GPL.
Irrevenant wrote:* Is it legally permissable to distribute GPL software with non-GPL-compatible game data (graphics, music files etc.)
If the "content" does not contain any code -- so that it only has maps, sound, graphics, and so on -- then you can release such content for a GPLed game engine under a proprietary license. If the content includes code -- like enemy AI, event scripting, and the like -- then the answer depends on how the engine and the code interact. It would be like releasing a plug-in for a GPLed appliation; see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLAndPlugins> for more information about that.

I hope this helps; if you have further questions, please feel free to contact us. Keep in mind that this is not legal advice; if you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer.

Best regards,

-- Brett Smith Free Software Foundation Licensing Team
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Post by TimothyP »

I, being quite an idiot in such matters, would appreciate it if someone would rephrase everything said above in layman's terms. Thanks!

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irrevenant
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Post by irrevenant »

Sorry, I shouldn't have assumed everyone was familiar with the licencing issues involved. I'm not sure how much you already know, so apologies if some of this is old ground for you:

Background on the GPL:
Computers can only execute programs that are written as strings of numbers called "machine code". Since machine code is very difficult for humans to read or write in, programmers write instructions (called 'source code') in more human-readable languages like C++. But computers can't execute C++ source code directly. Instead, a program called a compiler reads the C++ source code and creates an executable machine code program based on it.

Software companies generally only sell the executable machine code program. This makes it very difficult for the user to modify the program or even to understand in detail what it's doing. The creator of the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) believes that users should be free to distribute copies and make modifications of software that they legally owned. To ensure the freedom to make modifications, GPLed software requires you to make the source code available when you give or sell a copy of the software.

The Issues:
The GPL was written for use with software, so issues arise when you apply it to art & music (like Wesnoth has). I wrote to the Free Software Foundation to clarify these issues, and basically they said three things:

1a) If you release a GPLed .ogg file, you have to also make the source code available. For music, this means you have to ensure that anyone who gets the ogg can also get the (e.g.) Cubase composition files you used to create it. Technically, Wesnoth is already in breach of the GPL by releasing music and art files without including information on how to obtain the source code.

1b) The GPL grants the legal right to make modifications. If music is created using proprietary samples, the licence on the samples probably forbids modifying the samples. If so, the music cannot be distributed under the GPL because the GPL grants the user rights that would not be legally free to grant.

2) Just because the software is GPLed doesn't mean game content such as art and music has to be. Depending on how Wesnoth calls them, WML data files written such as scenario data files may be an exception, but IMO the GPL is perfectly suitable for them anyway.


* Whether Wesnoth should use the GPL for art depends on how onerous the people consider ensuring access to the working files. This is awkward, but also beneficial, as it enables people to tweak and update the music (even if the creator leaves). Wesnoth would also need to include that offer of source access with the distribution.

* Re: music, unless the proprietary samples are unusually licenced we can't legally release music using them under the GPL. It would probably have to be released under something like the Creative Commons by-nd licence instead. Unencumbered music could still use the GPL though this means similar issues to art re: access to source code.
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Post by TimothyP »

Thanks for the clarification!

I would say, in this case, that music and art from the game should not be under the GPL license, as you mentioned. I don't think all of the artists or musicians involved plan to give away everything behind their work. Plus, as composers we're using too much professional stuff to technically make it all work under GPL.

It sounds like every piece of software, as well as samples, would have to be created by us, if they were to be used under GPL. Is that right?

Hopefully other people agree with me that this stuff shouldn't be under GPL. I don't see how that could even work.

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Post by Discordanian »

I'm all hip to the Creative Commons tip. I'd really like some to see us move in that direction. GPL isn't sensical in terms of artwork/music. That's exactly why the CC was created in the first place.
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Post by Benanov »

I'd say that while you could technically dual-license the work, the people using professional tools could be in trouble (or paid-for samples, you'd have to do RF-only stuff or make your own.)

One could consider less-restrictive-than-the-GPL licensing such as BSD (authorship only right you retain) or Public Domain, but then you STILL don't get source...

I'd just put 30MB+ XM/IT files on my site and I'd be taken care of. :)

I know quite a bit about licensing (IANAL, though) and I'd say for the moment we should dual-license the works if at all possible.

btw if we get specific, I am a CC-BY-SA 2.5 fan, as that's closest to the GPL.
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