embedding metadata in MIDI?

Mike Linksvayer ml at creativecommons.org
Wed Jul 2 18:03:48 EDT 2003

John Kwasnik wrote:
>      The MIDI file spec DOES have a field designated for copyright 
> information ... see below for the most common type-1 MIDI files:
> http://crystal.apana.org.au/ghansper/midi_introduction/midi_file_format.html 
> The problem is that one needs either sequencing software (like Cakewalk) 
> or a hex editor in order to see it.  Unlike MP3 players, nobody can 
> think of a simple MIDI player which reports the contents of this field 
> ... i.e., the average non-MIDI-freak running Windows Media Player 
> wouldn't see it at all.
>      In practice, MIDI arrangers use ordinary track name fields for 
> their copyright notices, URLs, email addresses, etc.  So the question is 
> whether to follow the spec, or continue common practice.

Thanks for doing this research.

I think that we ought to use an expicit copyright field where available. 
  The embedded license claim info is primarily intended for consumption 
by programs, though it's nice if humans can see it too.

There is a tension between choosing the best possible field and using 
the field most likely to be displayed for users.  For MP3s, our 
recommendation to use TCOP is a somewhat of a acompromise between these 
two factors -- we could've recommended a custom frame explicitly labeled 
for CC license info (a TXXX frame), which would not be displayed in any 
program I've seen, or we could've recommended use of the ID3v1 comment, 
which is very constrained, often gets populated with junk, and is 
typically displayed where any embedded metadata at all is displayed.

Anyway, it'd be great if someone would write some code to demonstrate 
reading and writing the MIDI copyright "event" (?).  It looks like 
<http://search.cpan.org/author/SBURKE/MIDI-Perl-0.8/> would do most of 
the work.

>      [Maybe it's not so much of a problem ... MIDI is waning in 
> popularity.  The tiny files (<<100KB) were most popular 8 years ago when 
> bandwidth was small.]

Exactly 8 years ago? :-)

I guess that MIDI will be around forever, and it's kind of interesting 
from a reuse perspective as, if I understand correctly, it should be far 
easier for an average user to create derivative MIDI works than it is 
for an average user to do anything meaningful with raw audio.  So I 
think it's worthwhile do recommend embedding license info in MIDI files.

BTW, I also wanted to point out John's MIDI pages 
<http://members.accessbee.com/jkwasnik/midfiles.html> as an excellent 
example of labeling CC licensed content in web pages.  He notes with 
text and the "Some Rights Reserved" image that "Except where otherwise 
noted, the contents of this website are licensed under a Creative 
Commons License" and has an explicit license notice for each MIDI file 
on that file's "Info" page.  Barring embedding license claim info in the 
files themselves, this practice makes it about as clear as possible 
exactly what content John has licensed to the public under a CC license.

The only downside to John's implementation is that all of the license 
pages are accessed via a javascript link, which I doubt search engines 
would traverse.  I _think_ the same popup functionality could be 
obtained via a normal link with an onClick="return popup(this, 
'midiFileNotes')" attribute.

Hope you don't mind the attention and critique John.  Thanks again!

   Mike Linksvayer

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