I have posted many songs on Soundclick where I use a keyboard to generate background music and then add one or two horns playing the lead or solos. The songs are all my own compositions and arrangements to avoid copyright difficulties. I worked for several years as an engineer and had several courses and some experience in copyright, patent and contract law. But the other day I ran into something that surprised me.
I have been using a Yamaha V 50 synthesizer for background where all the sounds and even the rhythm loops were of my own creation. I may have played a trombone or trumpet sound on the keyboard but I had devised those sounds using the synthesizer controls so I even owned rights to those sounds. But alas, the keyboard got old and became mentally erratic (as many of us do) so I had to replace it. Today I cannot afford another $2000 synth so I bought a $200 keyboard of the sort you find in department stores. It has canned sounds, canned rythm loops and even canned auto background harmony in "Style Files" where you get a good background in an Am7 chord by simply holding the A, Ab and G keys. When you get near the end of the song you can hit an "End" button and get a canned ending.
To post a recording containing a mix of this background with your own foreground solo, you must agree that you own rights to all aspects of the recorded material. The Yamaha owner's manual states certain things under COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Obviously any pre-recorded songs included with the keyboard are copyrighted and cannot be used. The question is with regard to sounds, loops and other items that contribute to the sound. A key statement is: "Such copyrighted materials include, without limitation, all computer software, style files, MIDI files, WAVE data, musical scores and sound recordings." That's a big chunk of stuff and we note the 'without limitation" phrase thrown in there by a high-priced lawyer.
I woke up and decided they were probably right about at least one thng. I will no longer use the "End" button to make a clearly identifiable signature ending. I'll find another way to end the song like maybe just fade it out. But what other aspects must I change?
Fortunately, there are a few things I can do with this keyboard. The programmers included two dials and a button that can be used to add effects to the lead and to the background sounds. You can change the attack and decay, and create special filters. These definitely change the sound of the keyboard as played and recorded. I will be doing this. Thus the voices will not be as originally copyrighted by Yamaha. I can add an extra rhythm track using a wide variety of drum instruments. This will customize the breaks and special accents. Is this enough?
The question becomes "What constitutes the aspect of a performance to which one can assign particular rights?" If the performer exerts unique control over the totality of the sound, isn't that enough?
It almost seems there is little point to messing with this sort of thing. Why bring on legal problems when you're just trying to have fun? I have not and will not make a dime doing this. Each recording represents a lot of hard work. After creating and recording the background, it took 26 "takes" to get the song just posted. Others have taken more.