MT-32 ROM Licensing, sourceforge, vaporware, etc.

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MT-32 ROM Licensing, sourceforge, vaporware, etc.

Postby canadacow » 2003-8-06 @ 07:57

Just a quick update to keep everyone informed... I've started the process in making a licensing agreement with Roland with regard to the use of their ROM. I sent them a fax the other day and this is what they replied with: (My original fax is at the end of their letter)
Dear Mr. Beeler:

We have received your August 4, 2003 fax (copy attached) concerning your
desire to license the various samples contained on the Roland MT-32
product. Specifically, we understand that you wish to create a software
emulator of the Roland MT-32 for game purposes that will be released into
the public domain.

I will refer your inquiry to Mr. Mike Kent, Roland's Manager of Technical
Relations. However, please note that Mike is currently on vacation for the
next two weeks. I will ask Mike to address this matter with you when he
returns from his vacation.

Thank you for your patience.

Very truly yours,

Jun Yamato
General Counsel
Roland Corporation U.S.



August 4, 2003

Roland Corporation, U.S.

5100 S. Eastern Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90040-2398

Dear Sir or Madam:

Hello. I am writing to you to request permission or legality information
regarding the use of the Roland MT-32's Pulse Code Modulation (PCM)
samples contained in the hardware's (MT-32) ROM. My understanding is
that these are copyrighted, and I would hope that we could come to an
agreement with regard to the fair use of the PCM samples in my work.
Specifically, my intended use is for the creation of an MT-32 emulator
in software. This project is Open Source and will be released into the
public domain. I am completing this project to fill a void within the
gamer community that enjoys playing old games in the manner with which
they were intended to be played. As the Roland MT-32 was a very popular
piece of hardware during the years of 1987-94, many games were written
to specifically support it. Until now, no MIDI hardware or software has
been able to accurately emulate the unique sound of the L/A synthesis
and PCM samples used by the Roland MT-32. My work on such a project
thus far has demonstrated a great deal of feasibility with modern
hardware. To maintain accuracy in emulation, however, the PCM samples
from the original MT-32 are required. Ideally, I would like to be
granted permission to incorporate these samples directly into my
emulator, but would be happy with any assistance you could give me.
Thank-you for your time and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Dean Beeler


So, nothing as of yet (and nothing for the next two weeks), but atleast they responded.

On other fronts, I've started a new sourceforge project at
http://sourceforge.net/projects/mt32emu. I've created this specifically to enlist programmers to help with the transformation from DosBox to actual driver code.

As for that new update... well, as always, I like to have each one represent a milestone in emulation quality, so the lag time is me trying to get it sound just that much closer to the real thing.
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Postby ih8registrations » 2003-8-06 @ 11:36

Well hell, if you're going to go that route, might as well ask for the unknown specs:) If they allow the rom licencing, I don't see why they wouldn't clarify what the parameter values are. Definitely a bold move. I suspect there's a decent chance they'll force us to come up with a facsimile patch set though. With accurate emulation of the mt-32 behavior, even with a patch set that's slightly off I would think it would sound pretty close/good. How many PCM samples are there? I havn't counted.
Last edited by ih8registrations on 2003-8-06 @ 12:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby canadacow » 2003-8-06 @ 14:39

Well, I'm definately optimistic that they may allow full licensing, for several reasons:

1) Roland has a good track record of licensing their samples and/or puttting them into the public domain. See this link: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/1996/Oct96/rolandpr.asp
While I'm certainly not Microsoft (I'm sure a good deal of money exchanged hands in this licensing agreement) I think my clear intentions to not use a profitable design may help me.

2) The Roland MT-32 is 17 years old. Roland has very little to lose by freely licensing their ROM. Comparably, Nintendo still has atleast some vested interest in the the original NES and its ROMs, since Nintendo can still profit in a small manner through the accessories and software made for the NES. I doubt Roland has seen any significant MT-32 related income in a decade.

3) Worst case scenario, this covers my ass in a good faith effort to be upfront with Roland and the use of their ROM.

As for asking for complete specs, that may be pushing my luck. If I find Roland to be generous I may see about getting the full specs, but doing so will require me to contact a different department. Currently, I've only spoken to people from Roland's legal department, who I doubt will be able to help me with obtaining the required technical documentation.
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Postby canadacow » 2003-8-06 @ 15:23

Oh yeah... there are 54 separate PCM sounds.... the remaining 74 are duplicate or loop sounds (for total of 128 selectable PCM sounds).
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Postby canadacow » 2003-9-20 @ 21:56

They finally replied:

Code: Select all
Dear Mr. Beeler,

Thank you for contacting Roland Corporation about the copyrighted sounds of
the Roland MT-32. We appreciate your interesting idea to distribute an
emulator of the Roland MT-32.

However, Roland is not able to grant a license of the MT-32 sounds for this
proposed project.

Best Regards,
Mike Kent

-----------------------------------------------
| Mike Kent, Manager of Technical Relations   |
| Roland Corporation                          |
| Email:                                      |
| Tel: (XXX)XXX-XXXX     Fax: (XXX)XXX-XXXX   |
-----------------------------------------------



He says they are copyrighted but after further research I am unable to verify if the PCM samples are indeed copyrighted. I have checked for their registration with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, and there is no record of the MT-32 samples being copyrighted. (There is, however, a record of copyrighted wavetable samples from the SC-55 on) Furthermore, a law was passed in 1989 that makes the notice of copyright optional on fixed works. Before, 1989, omitting a copyright notice meant the work was placed in the public domain. Authors were given 5 years from the passage of this law to correctly register their works made before this year that were not properly labeled (Roland did not do this). Again, the MT-32 and the samples were first fixed in 1987. On opening my MT-32, I see no copyright notice on the ROM's and as previously stated, I cannot find any official copyright registration with the U.S. government. As such, I will probably be giving Mike a call Monday and inquire about whether or not the samples are indeed copyrighted. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Postby Qbix » 2003-9-20 @ 23:56

Good luck.

I expected this reply though. Most companies try to conserve their goods. How old they may be.

But I hope they will see that it's actually free advertising for them as everybody can come in to touch with the former glory and if people like it they might consider buying a modern roland card.
Water flows down the stream
How to ask questions the smart way!
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Postby canadacow » 2003-9-21 @ 00:58

This link explains the grey area considering the copyrightedness of the PCM sounds. As footnote #3 reiterates: Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-78 and 3-1-89, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if, e.g., registration was made within five years. 17 U.S.C. § 405.

http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm

Again, I'd like to remind everyone that all trademarks associated with the MT-32 are dead, and that all patents used (not something I have to worry about anyway) have expired since the manufacture of the MT-32.

Finally there is a great deal of case law that says that emulators alone (without derived/copyrighted ROM information) are very legal. See Sony vs. Connectix, Atari vs. Coleco and Intel vs. AMD.

In otherwords, if ultimately I end up with the law in my favor (i.e., the samples are in the public domain and Roland has no legal legs to stand on), I may still end up pissing Roland off and they may try to SLAPP suit me. (http://www.fracturedjustice.com/slapp.html) No worries if the law is clearly in my favor though, I just recently had a close friend get admitted to the bar. :D

Ultimately, I find it a very odd phenomenon that all corporations seem to act in a similiar greedy manner in similiar situations. Somehow, despite the fact that the corporation is made of individuals, common sense ideas that apply to individuals no longer seem to apply to the corporations as a whole (i.e., in this case, do to others what you would like them to do to you.)
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Postby ih8registrations » 2003-9-21 @ 03:41

I'm sure you're aware but, if they have no legal leg to stand on anymore, don't expect them to say so. Actually, expect them to keep claiming they do even when faced with the facts that say otherwise. And from what you've pointed out, that looks to be the case. They're saying no, the law says different. The question that'll be left in this situation is whether they'll think it's worth it to hassle you or anyone else anyway. Another interesting part of emulation:)
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Postby HunterZ » 2003-9-21 @ 05:42

canadacow wrote:Finally there is a great deal of case law that says that emulators alone (without derived/copyrighted ROM information) are very legal. See Sony vs. Connectix, Atari vs. Coleco and Intel vs. AMD.
Emulators, yes. Copyrighted ROMs, no, and these are what seem to be the issue at hand. Looks like the good money's on our side on this one though - I hope it turns out that the ROMs are now legally uncopyrighted and can be distributed. In fact, that may be why Roland cannot grant you a license - they may not have a legal right to do so as a result of no longer owning the copyright to them. :cool:

Also, if Roland does still own them, then the worst they'll do is tell you to please stop distributing the ROMs and by then everyone will have them anyways (sucks for Roland but that's how it usually works with these types of things).
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Postby Snover » 2003-9-21 @ 23:44

HunterZ wrote:Emulators, yes. Copyrighted ROMs, no
Hence the reason he wrote "emulators alone (without derived/copyrighted ROM information)" Jeeze Hunter, get your eyes checked.
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Postby HunterZ » 2003-9-22 @ 00:22

I'm aware of what he said. It's just that it was framed as if to be a fact that is in support of the legality of including MT-32 ROMs with his emulator, which as I explained is not really true.

I see you're still as grouchy as ever, Snover :p
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Postby canadacow » 2003-9-22 @ 00:28

Jeeze Snover, get your eyes checked -- how many times have I asked you to put a link from your MT-32 emulation page to my MT-32 development page?
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Postby teamster1975 » 2003-9-22 @ 11:00

Don't worry about it Canadacow, as the emulation sounds better and better there are enough of us that will "advertise" it on various websites. Think how many people are following ScummVM! :D
As a side note, I just listened to your "side by side" MP3 following the ScummVM forum post, The pitch of the emulator (the right hand channel) is still a little bit off, also the two channels were slightly out of sync.
All the best,
Matt
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Postby mirekluza » 2003-9-22 @ 11:38

As I wrote elsewhere (MT-32 & DOSBOX thread), I think it can be easily solved by distributing data (sample) files separate in the same way as many other emulators distribute ROMs.
CANADACOW would offically provide just emulator, telling users they should get those copyrighted files separately. No problem with that - or have any of you any problems when trying to use e.g. Amiga emulator WinUAE? (it is officially provided without ROMS - so basically useless - but anybody who finished elementary school can find ROMs on internet).

As for the negative answer from Roland - I would be surprised if it woud be different. It is a feature of the corporate culture - never ever give anything for free unless there is some reason for it (e.g. advertisement). Even if it was (just theoretical example) some small program runnable on mainframe in mid-sixties which nobody remember anything about. :-)
On the other hand it was not very strong refusal (they could have threatened you to immediately cease etc ...).

IMHO somebody from their legal department was too quick to answer CANADACOW that they consider it, so they had to reply. Otherwise I think that they would not react at all. This is thestandard attitude: "we do not say anything (so we quietly tolerate it), but if a situation appears in future where we could gain profit from this, we can stop the tolerance at any time". For the company this attitude is probably the wisest. For emulator makers: it is highly unlikely the original company could ever start to make profit from this again - so just go on with your emulators.

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Postby canadacow » 2003-9-22 @ 14:41

teamster1975 wrote:The pitch of the emulator (the right hand channel) is still a little bit off, also the two channels were slightly out of sync.


Interestingly, I don't know why I didn't do the side by side comparision earlier. I ran the file through my spectrum analysizer and noticed what was going on. I've retuned it since and now the tune is a match in the spectrum analysizer. On the other hand, I've presently gutted the emulator and replaced the interal mixing system with a partial based system (rather than note based), and its seems very promising. However, there are some bugs that need to be worked out and the emulator as I have it right now sounds very bad. I believe I've got some memory over-runs or lost pointers being interfaced somewhere that's throwing it off. When I get those bugs fixed I'll be making a new post.
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Postby canadacow » 2003-9-22 @ 17:15

Spoke to Mike Kent. He admitted that Roland had not registered the MT-32 samples with the United States Copyright Office. Of course, he maintained that its not necessary to register. On saying that, I reminded him that its only been that way since 1989 and ROM in question was first fixed in 1987. With that said, he also admitted he wasn't an attorney and was unable to expound on the status of the copyright. From that point, I requested he put in me in contact with someone who could provide me with a letter stating to the fact that Roland either maintains (and has proof) of the copyright on MT-32 sounds or the fact that it does not. Hopefully such a letter will clarify the issue and put to rest the legality surrounding my ability to use the MT-32 ROM.
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Postby Snover » 2003-9-23 @ 21:22

Ha ha, what a tool.
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Postby Dominus » 2003-9-24 @ 22:12

wow, good news c. This might actually be going somewhere. He really made a big mistake in giving you his direct phone number :-)
keep hassling him!!!
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Postby Lobivopsis » 2003-9-27 @ 23:02

Ultimately, I find it a very odd phenomenon that all corporations seem to act in a similiar greedy manner in similiar situations. Somehow, despite the fact that the corporation is made of individuals, common sense ideas that apply to individuals no longer seem to apply to the corporations as a whole (i.e., in this case, do to others what you would like them to do to you.)


That's nothing, there are thousands upon thousands of old films and cartoons from the 20's and 30's disintigrating into nitrate ash in various studio's vaults because they're not willing to restore them themselves (no money in it) but too greedy to give them to organizations that would do it for free because they don't want somone else to make money off their old films. Never mind that any money made from the restored films is usually less than what it cost to restore them, they'd rather let them be gradually destroyed.
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Postby Nicht Sehr Gut » 2003-9-28 @ 00:36

Originally posted by Lobivopsis [B]...thousands of old films and cartoons from the 20's and 30's disintigrating into nitrate ash in various studio's vaults because they're not willing to restore them themselves (no money in it) but too greedy to give them to organizations that would do it for free because they don't want somone else to make money off their old films.
While I have no doubt that greed is involved for some, I think a major part of the problem is the "disconnect" between people (especially in larger organizations).

A recent example was when the Admin of "Underdogs" had contacted Sierra software about it's old catalog of software titles.

(This was after the Cendant / Havas buyouts where virtually all of the remnants of the original Sierra had been eradicated and all efforts were being placed on variants of Half-Life and/or SWAT3)

The people at Sierra had given permission for Underdogs to distribute many of these classic titles. Within 24 hours, Underdogs had been contacted by Sierra's lawyers with an immediate cease-and-desist...

Why would they do that? Easy. From the lawyers' perspective, Underdogs was stealing...even with the permission of Sierra personnel (who were actually advising customers to go to Underdogs for "old" games) the lawyers only saw the "potential" for lost profits...therefore a potential loss of their income because the company employing them would be losing money. That was their only concern, the programs at issue (and what would actually become of them) were irrelevant.

I'm willing to bet the people in charge of these films are the same way...not so much that they know these films will be lost...rather that all they know is that they have a "commodity" and refuse to speak to anyone about them unless they see an immediate benefit for themselves (IOW, completely ignorant of what they actually have).
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