Hobbyist musician uses computer algorithm to compose every melody possible in the key of C, then releases it for free online in the hopes of minimizing frivolous copyright suits of simple songs
A new project compiled every possible melody in the key of CThe dataset includes 68.7 billion different melodies, hundreds of times more than there are published songs in the history of the music industryIt began with the hope of reducing frivolous copyright claims over melodies
A lawyer and hobbyist musician collaborated with a computer programmer to generate every possible 12-note melody in the key of C.
The final compilation includes 68.7 billion melodic combinations, which the pair uploaded to the Internet Archive through a Create Commons Zero license, meaning they reserve no rights of ownership to any of them.
They hope the treasure trove of material might help defuse potentially frivolous copyright suits over copied melodies, which they believe are ultimately matters of math not personal ownership.
A lawyer and hobbyist musician partnered with a programmer to create a computer algorithm to generate every 12-note melody possible in the key of C, leading to more than 68.7 billion combinations
‘Under copyright law, numbers are facts, and under copyright law, facts either have thin copyright, almost no copyright, or no copyright at all,’ Damen Riehl said in a Ted Talk explaining the project, according to a report in Vice.
‘So maybe if these numbers have existed since the beginning of time and we’re just plucking them out, maybe melodies are just math, which is just facts, which is not copyrightable.’
The project was originally started in 2019 when Damien Riehl, a lawyer and hobbyist musician, and programmer Noah Rubin were having drinks after a cybersecurity event.
During the day’s presentations Riehl had gotten the idea that it might be possible to ‘brute force’ different combinations of musical notes in the same way that computer hackers brute force different letter and number combinations to crack passwords.
At the time, a jury had just ruled against Katie Perry in a lawsuit brough by Flame, a rapper who claimed her chart topper ‘Dark Horse’ had copied a musical fragment from his 2009 song ‘Joyful Noise.’
The team was inspired by computer hackers how use a ‘brute force’ combination technique to crack other people’s passwords, and thought a similar approach might be useful for arranging notes into melodic structures