How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

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SocaLabs
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How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by SocaLabs »

Hi,

I'm a developer and I release my plugins primarily under BSD license. I'm wondering how does the GPL apply to sound fonts / sample libraries? Does the GPL only apply to the one sound font? Or if I wanted to distribute a GPL soundfont with my BSD sampler, would my entire sampler need to be GPL?

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milo
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Re: How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by milo »

I am not a lawyer, but I think you can keep using BSD for your sampler, as long as you specify that the bundled soundfont is GPL, include a copy of the license, etc. In other words, keep a legal firewall between the soundfont and your sampler. Or if you want to keep your distance even further, provide instructions for the user to download and install the GPL soundfont themselves.

SocaLabs
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Re: How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by SocaLabs »

And what about the users song? Is there any restrictions on that?

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milo
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Re: How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by milo »

Oh, that's a different issue, and I'm not sure what to say. The thorny issue is that a song produced using the GPL soundfont necessarily includes the GPL'd material, so the song is a derivative work.

And does it even make sense to apply the GPL to a music recording? It seems like an audio-specific license, or a Creative Commons license, would be a better fit for a sample library.

Maybe ask the sample library author, if available, to rethink this?

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d.healey
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Re: How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by d.healey »

The user must get access to the source code. For a sound font this isn't so straight forward since the samples don't really have source code, but if they are part of the executable file, and not separate like with SFZ, the raw WAVs are probably equivalent to source code.

Regarding copyleft, we know from the existence of the GPL font exception that works that contain some part of a GPL'd program must themselves also be GPL'd unless an exception is applied. I don't know if you can apply the font exception to sound fonts but it would make sense. I would contact GNU.org or the free software foundation and ask them what they think. They might not even be aware of such a potential issue with sound fonts and sample libraries.

I released some samples under a CC share-alike license a few years ago and had the same conundrum. I contacted the CC creators and they suggested I add an exception for derivative works. Interestingly there used to be a CC sample library license but it's no longer supported/maintained.
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Basslint
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Re: How does the GPL apply to sound fonts?

Post by Basslint »

SocaLabs wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:52 pm
Hi,

I'm a developer and I release my plugins primarily under BSD license. I'm wondering how does the GPL apply to sound fonts / sample libraries? Does the GPL only apply to the one sound font? Or if I wanted to distribute a GPL soundfont with my BSD sampler, would my entire sampler need to be GPL?
Since SoundFonts contain more data than code, a Creative Commons license might be more appropriate. There is even a copyleft one (CC BY-SA).

I am not a lawyer, however from my experience you should be able to release your sampler under the BSD license even if you ship GPL soundfonts, since they are data which is loaded by your sampler.

As a developer, however, I think that it'd be the best if you released your sampler under the GPL as well. A license like the BSD gives others the permission to take your work, make it proprietary and sell it, but aside from that there are few benefits to you, the developer. There's a reason popular programs like Linux, Ardour, Krita, GIMP and Blender are released under the GPL: it's what allowed them to thrive!
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. [Acts 4:32]

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