Is This Software the Future of Creating Legal Remixes Filled with Samples?

There’s a huge problem facing artists in the age of digital music. Programs for downloading and remixing songs make the process incredibly easy, so DJs and producers are churning out tons of music. Their mashups and remixes are then posted online – and quickly slapped with copyright infringement strikes by services like YouTube and Soundcloud. If you’re a small artist who relies on those websites for distribution, the last thing you want to do is have your account blocked. But at the same time, your remixes and mashups only contain parts of the songs, so the final product is still technically original. Who’s to blame: overzealous artists and labels looking to protect their works, or inspired individuals trying to piggy-back off another’s success? Maybe there’s actually a third culprit: a lack of proper licensing that can ensure both parties share the wealth. That’s where programs like MixBANK come into play.

MixBANK is what’s known as a Rights Management System (RMS), and it’s looking to change the way remixes are licensed. Here’s how it works. An artist or manager will sign up with the service, which will submit their music to an international registry – let’s call this particular song Track X. The artist will indicate how much of Track X they want to open up for usage on which platforms. For example, they could say they want Track X to only get incorporated into remixes on Spotify, but have the original on Apple Music. Then, whenever a remix is uploaded by a different artist to any participating services (Spotify and Apple Music both being partners with MixBANK), that remix automatically gets analyzed by the RMS and licensing rights are assigned according to the contents of the remix. RMSes from across the world are all connected, and that network shares licensing of the remix appropriately. For example, if Remix Y was mostly made up of Track X but also had samples from a Dutch artist, an RMS from the Netherlands called Buma/Stemra would be connected through the network and given partial licensing as well. The final product is the important part: Apple Music can monetize the song, the artist that uploaded Remix Y gets paid, Track X’s creator gets a share, the Dutch artist also gets their cut, and most importantly nobody gets in trouble and the remix isn’t removed.

There are actually huge mashup and remix communities online that could greatly benefit from software like this taking off. Most of these artists post to Soundcloud and YouTube because of the lack of fees, but the way those websites operate leaves the artist liable. They’re what’re called ‘safe harbour‘ sites – a legal term created in the infancy of the Internet that protects sharing websites from being held accountable for what their users share. Look at it this way: YouTube is important for the spread of free information online, so having to constantly battle court cases that threaten their operation wouldn’t make sense if the content in question was only a vast minority of what they actually share. So, websites that share that kind of user-generated content are labelled as safe harbours, meaning it’s not entirely on them to police their users. Of course that’s a bit over-simplified – both YouTube and Soundcloud have automatic detection systems to help rights owners ensure their licensing stays intact – but users are crafty and get around it. That craftiness on safe harbour sites reportedly costs the music industry almost one billion dollars in lost revenue, so you could see why Rights Management Systems are appreciated.

Could MixBANK and other RMSes be the way to go? Early adopters like Spotify and Apple Music point in that direction. The way the system works means that listeners are hardly effected, so it doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad solution to the legal grey-area surrounding remixes. And it would also mean that safe harbour sites like Soundcloud wouldn’t need to pull content that users worked hard on because of potential copyright issues. As usual there’s still some wait-and-see to be done, but things are moving in the right direction to allow everybody to legally create remixes as they please. Ye of Thrones, anyone?

Mathew Kahansky

Once upon a time, Mat studied journalism. That's how he became Alan's one-time intern and current-time contributor, and the rest is ongoing history - get it? Mat also studied biology and music, so he has a strangely specific knowledge set that doesn't really apply anywhere other than useless fun facts. He currently works for a music tech start-up in Halifax, and is a big fan of the em dash.

4 thoughts on “Is This Software the Future of Creating Legal Remixes Filled with Samples?

  • May 6, 2017 at 10:11 am
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    The “one billion a year” figure is completely imaginary and made-up. The record industry knows for a fact that it’s demanding money that literally doesn’t exist.

    You shouldn’t repeat claims like that as if they’re fact.

    Reply
    • May 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm
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      Hi David,

      You’re absolutely right, outlandish claims shouldn’t be repeated as fact. That’s why I try to make sure to use terms like “reportedly” or “allegedly” and include sources so that there’s plenty of room to question. In this case, the fact that a figure like that is being thrown around – regardless of what the actual total is – highlights the industry’s concerns and is why I chose to include it.

      I hope that clears up any confusion!

      – Mat

      Reply
      • May 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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        Fair enough 🙂 I’ve just found it depressingly reliable to assume any number thrown around in record company advocacy is a lie unless I can see and verify the working. The goal is to get the number repeated as if it’s a fact, even when it really isn’t.

        Reply
  • February 15, 2018 at 6:27 am
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    Interesting read, of course. There are easy ways of music remixing and downloading and lots of people are doing this successfully. However, copyright infringement problems are also on the rise. The article sheds light onthis problem in a nice way. As a music enthusiast, I regularly check on technical updates in the industry and came across Dorico (https://www.dorico.com/), an excellent music scoring software with integrated AI.

    Reply

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