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Why aren't the fingerprints in the database covered by the recording copyright on the song that they were derived from?

If the fingerprint data of a track is covered then by that logic its SHA1 hash etc. would also be covered, and I can't see that line of argument going anywhere.

Only if you could prove that there are no collisions, right?

My thinking was that while the fingerprint is derived from the music, it contains no audio data and there is no way to go back from the fingerprint to any representation of the recorded work. Much like a cryptographic hash.

All the fingerprint comprises is a bunch of abstract statistical data about the music, its not qualitatively different from the output of say, a visualisation algorithm in a music player. Just much more useful.

But then again, copyright law makes no fucking sense, so who knows.

Because it's less like a copy, and more like a name?

In any case, even if this was technically a copy, I can't imagine this possibly failing the fair use test.

Maybe they are, to the best of my knowledge there's no definite answer that they aren't. I find it unintuitive but I do think that rationally there's a case to be made that they are, in fact, 'derived works'.

Even if so, there's a decent fair-use argument. The cases are mixed, but there have been some lawsuits over book summaries that came out in favor of the defendant, even though in a sense a summary of a book "derives" from the book. No idea what a court would hold, but fingerprints seem like they'd be on even stronger footing, since to the extent they're a summary, it isn't even much of a human-interpretable one, intended instead for indexing purposes, so it replaces the original work even less than a book summary does.

Objectively, they're meta-data, on the order of box scores from a baseball game or the cast credits from a movie. So there's no particularly solid argument for them to infringe on the copyright of the original work.


- game: a baseball game is not a "work" under the Berne convention

- cast credits: they are descriptive, but not derived from the movie.

One of the criteria to assess "fair use" is "was anything creative added in the process of making the derivative", which is per definition not true in the checksum or fingerprint case. I don't find your argument compelling - it's not a closed and shut case.

They're not really meta-data - they describe aspects of the sound recording, just like a list of notes and durations would (ie a MIDI file derived from analysing the recording).

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