GPL as it applies to sample libraries

  • I'd like to release some sample libraries where the user can see, modify, and share the source code. However I want the samples to be licensed under different terms so that the instrument as a whole can't be used to produce music commercially without paying a license fee. So the final product is free for personal use but paid for commercial use while the source code is completely free in every way.

    The GPL license isn't clear on this as it refers only to "source code". However this page states that audio and artwork used in video games can be licensed separately from the source code of the game, I'm thinking that this should also apply to samples.

    The same page also states that, while it's not encouraged, GPL programs can use non-free libraries. link

    Or is there another license that would be more appropriate?

  • This is one of the greyer areas of GPL - on the one hand you are free to choose whatever license you want for your samples, on the other hand everything that is needed to run your GPL'ed application must be distributed along with the source code. You definitely can't say "here is my code, but you can't use it commercially because GPL", because the GPL is not protecting against commercial usage (it just forces derivates to inherit the GPL and thus making closed source derivates impossible).

    But I am planning to sit down with an actual lawyer in the near future (for making license contracts that are not totally bogus) and I'll discuss this topic (since it is also a potential loophole for getting around the HISE license).

    The worst outcome would be that you have to get a JUCE license (don't bother about HISE license fees) and roll your own licensing scheme (it can still be open source, but the samples are restricted to non commercial usage). Or use the HISE player 🙂

  • Yea I was thinking I might have to roll my own - but I really don't want to :(. Also what about embedded fonts, do they have to be GPL too for the library to be GPL... I'm getting a headache 😛

  • I think I might have found a solution, Creative Commons. I can release the source code (no binary) under the CC BY-SA license, this gives a pretty good copyleft license so people can use my source code in their projects and learn from it, which is what I want. And I can release my actual instruments under a CC+ dual-license combining CC BY-NC-SA (for personal use only) and some other (yet to be decided) commercial use license.

  • Don't know if you've talked with a lawyer yet but I have some more questions.

    If I release a HISE library as GPL - samples included - does the music that the end user creates have to be GPL also? This would imply it does.

    The VST and ASIO SDKs aren't GPL, how does that affect distribution of a HISE project under GPL?

    If I release my samples as GPL can they be used to create and distribute an instrument in a non-free sampler such as Kontakt?

  • RE GPL and VST SDK, this is an interesting read:

    The bottom line is: GPL may have some quirks and weird ways of spilling into other licensing models, but it you play fair, nobody will cause any troubles - it's the old "No plaintiff, no judge" rule (I hope the translation makes any sense to you). The copyright holders you are trying to "infringe" in our case would be the JUCE people and me and as Jules stated: as long as you publish the source code so other people can see it, it is GPL-compliant enough (that's how I read his statements at least). I feel the same way so releasing a GPL library for free and publish the samples but with a little bit more restrictive license (that eg. permits redistribution in another sampler) is totally fine as long as it's not a loophole for commercial exploitation.

    Also I don't think using GPLed audio software means that the music also must be licensed under the GPL. What would this mean: Publish the DAW project files along with every sample and plugin that is used? This would mean you can't mix any GPL plugins with commercial licensed plugins and I doubt that even the strongest copyleft advocates think this is a viable option.

  • That's how I think it should be too, so we'll interpret the GPL in a sensible way for it to apply to sampling, which is something it doesn't cover explicitly.