Q: Legality of releasing my song?
I have written a song which was inspired by a Sega video game from the 80's. The song's primary melody is based on certain one bar looping sound bites from this game, but the song structure and arrangement is 100% my own work, the drum part is 100% written by me, and the simple melodies inspired by the game have been expanded and altered into fully-fledged riffs, with accompanying harmonies, basslines, and other instrumentation (all of which having been written by myself and/or my partner). My plan is to release this song on streaming services, and I'm unsure of the nature of the legal permissions I need to obtain to do so.
A: To the extent you have copied a bit of musical content from the game, it is minimal and your use is transformative therefore not an actionable infringement. If the remainder of your work is original, then you do not need to seek permission.
In cases involving creative works inspired by existing material, such as a video game, the concept of "fair use" under copyright law may apply. If your song transforms the original material in a substantial way, creating a new and unique work, it could be considered fair use. However, legal assessments can be complex, so it's recommended to consult with an attorney to determine if your song qualifies for fair use and to navigate any potential legal issues before releasing it.
James L. Arrasmith
Founding Attorney and Chief Lawyer
The Law Offices of James L. Arrasmith
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