My site, AlrightSounds.com, was taken off line by the ISP for copyright complaints. I got no notice. The site was just down, and I had to ask why. They wouldn't even tell me who had filed the complaint. Some research indicates the complaints were by the biggest corporations in the music business. Enough files were affected that I decided it was not worth running the site without these files, at least for now.
Hardly anyone will listen to MIDI files, but I have developed a technology that will transform them into MP3 files that people seem to like. Several million of these files have been downloaded all over the world, mostly into China. My advertising budget was zero. All told, I have published over 13,000 MP3s, most of them derived from MIDI files downloaded from the net. Apparently, MIDI files have few enough downloads that the Musical Establishment ignores them. Being able to transform these files into something that people will actually listen to is the musical equivalent of spinning straw into gold, or maybe just silver or copper, but anyway, the technique demonstrably adds value, and it would seem there should be a way for me to get some return on the value I have added.
I use the word derive instead of copy because the my software substantially changes the files. Before I even see or hear the content of the files, my software has changed the tuning so that none of the notes in the resulting music have the same frequency as the original, and the tuning ratios between the various notes have also been changed from the original. Some notes will be higher in frequency, and some lower, but none are the same. The instruments and instrumental phrasing have been completely changed before I listen to the music. My software also changes the instrumentation and instrument phrasing. The program seems to be pretty good at picking out the melody line so the harmonies can be recalculated on that basis, but if it makes a wrong guess, it can come up with something that sounds nothing like the original, or it can come up with something that is just enough like the original to be irritating. Also, I almost always change the rhythmic structure of the music to allow for different forms of syncopation.
I have been relying on my audience to indicate what they like and what they don't and I still have most of those raw download statistics.
I now have not only the 13,000 MP3s, but in most cases I also have the same songs in a much higher fidelity 24 bit FLAC format. If even more fidelity is desired, I also have most of the sequencer scripts I used to generate the FLACs so that I can generate high fidelity copies adapted to new technologies as they appear.
In most cases, I know nothing about the original melody and the midi files were created by amateur arrangers, so I have no idea whether, or how much my results sound like the original. I just try to make the music interesting and pleasant.
If the sounds I get from the automatic transformation seem OK to me, then I just publish the song, but in most cases, I change things. The most common thing I do is add a stronger bass line, but if the piece is too repetitive, I may add notes to decrease the monotony. I can do this rapidly because my software uses the LCM theory of harmony. That theory was originally discovered by one of those European mathematicians a century or more ago. I independently invented the LCM theory in the 60s and applied it to electronic music.
Making the LCM theory practical involves more than I have outlined here, but I currently consider the actual details of the process a trade secret. On the other hand, I am considering releasing it to open source if there is no other way to bring the concept into the mainstream.
I believe such a release would be good for the music consumer. I can create music that is competitive with commercial music for about one percent of the cost and time. I produce a ready-to-release composition or arrangement in 10 to 20 minutes. I have no band, no recording studio, and very low overhead.
If there were thousands or tens of thousands of people doing what I am doing, it seems reasonable to believe that would change the music industry for the better.
But I would also like to finally make some money from my 40 year quest to make this technology practical, and it is hard to see how open sourcing the code would do that. I also don't want to cause social disruption that will hurt innocent people.
I knew all along that I would probably have conversations with copyright owners. It came a lot more forcefully than I expected, but now that the conversation has started, I hope we can discuss the draconian enforcement of copyright laws when they favor the rich and powerful, and the complete lack of that enforcement in favor of those with more good ideas than money.
I have around eighty albums on Google Music. You can listen to them here:
My first encounter with the IP establishment also involved music. In 1966, I started building a digital musical instrument using RTL. The instrument mainly consisted of three resettable counters. That was 5 years before the very similar presettable counter was patented by GE. A cynic might think it was more than coincidence that GE is also the last company I worked for before I took my 17 year sabbatical from corporate life. You probably own at least dozens of these counters. You have them in your watch, your TV remote, your computer, your cell phone, your car, and etc. My earnings from this work were negative. My main expense was for patent attorneys.
I did finally get to the point where I had a patent dispute with Yamaha, Creative Labs, and etc. The attorneys told me that suing these guys would take a couple of million, and that if the firm chose to take the case for a cut of the proceeds, I would be responsible for around $200,000 of direct expenses win or lose as dictated by California State Law. This was not mentioned when they were selling me their patent writing plan. They assured me that they wouldn't try to collect. That put me in a position of trusting people who had clearly misrepresented the ease of enforcing patents when making the sales pitch for hiring them to get a patent. Even on that shaky basis, the firm finally declined to take the case giving the reason that it was not a slam dunk.
I also have other projects: a computer architecture much more powerful than the ones we have now for scientific applications, a rotary internal combustion engine that would be cheaper to build and quieter and less expensive to run than our current engines, a sort algorithm that has been certified to be the worlds fastest practical sort, a plan for practical hydrogen fusion that should be tested. You can get more details on http://www.mcky.net/.
If Lady Gaga releases a song, she can get copyright protection for the rest of her life plus 75 years that will be vigorously enforced by the government and corporations. I spent years and thousands of dollars developing technology and paying to have it protected and I have no legal leverage at all. The patent that was sold to me as having broader coverage than a copyright would not cover an implementation that was far more similar to the one in my patent than one of my arrangements is to the Lady Gaga song from which it was derived.
I am optimistic that a reasonable resolution of these issues can be reached. The music industry will have to come to terms with this technology one way or another, and I am hoping the problems can be minimized on all sides. I believe the rewards can be substantial for everyone.
Some consider our social system a meritocracy, but it is currently a lot easier for me to see the ocracy than the merit.
I wouldn't want to leave you with the impression that I am an unhappy person. I have had way more than my share of fun. I have a wonderful wife, a comfortable life, and a mellow disposition. But I would be even happier if the Powers that Be had the same respect for my intellectual property that they expect me to have for theirs.