Given that there are only 8 notes that pop melodies are typically created from there are a limited amount of melodies that can exist. This amount can be further expanded when taking into account classical, and Jazz music where there are 12 notes that melodies are built from. But it is still limited.
Rhythms are not taken into account as they are not considered copyrightable. So, we are left with a combination of tones that go up and down and the courts can decide if you are infringing on a melody that you may or may not have heard before.
It is extremely difficult to prove that someone has never heard a melody before. But that doesn’t matter. In the past, courts have ruled against the defendant saying they have subconsciously infringed even though they may have never heard the melody before.
Maybe we have heard everything that could ever be made. Or maybe any melody that is interesting to listen to has already be written. Most pop songs typically use only 3 notes and are 5 notes long, which leaves us with only 243 melodies.
So when you listen to that new hit song you have most likely heard some version of its melody before. From the time that humans have been creating, performing and recording music maybe we have already exhausted all the melodies that could exist.
So, today we are left with an era of music makers that fear the possibility that their own creations might accidentally be infringing upon another. What a heavy burden to carry in the face of creation and expression.
This has pushed music makers to be more creative but there are still a limited amount of melodies that can exist. A single octave of 8 notes with a maximum length of 12 notes returns nearly 69 billion variations, or melodies.
Damien Riel and Noah Rubin have copyrighted every possible melody by creating a program that has recorded every possible variation of tones and recorded it to hard disk.
Since they have copyrighted every possible melody, this would mean anyone from this point forward would be infringing on their music copyright. Yet what they have done is amazing, shared it all to the public.
Imagine a world where every melody that could be written has been copyrighted and is in the public domain. The purpose is to get the courts to update and redefine music copyright.
What Damien and Noah have done is brilliant, take out the whole melody variable. Now music makers are free to use any melody and make it their own. Because, it is not just the melody that makes a great song.
We have yet to wait and see what the courts decide. Be free and make music.
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