This afternoon, I feel obligated to offer some explanation. Following my post about Julien Bayle’s LFO Everything module for Ableton Live, several readers and a forum thread on the Ableton Live forum raised concerns that a portion of Julien’s Device was adapted from another developer’s work without attribution. Heated discussion on the Live forum spilled over into our comment thread. I was contacted by Edward Majcher, the developer of the original patch in question, entitled Device LFO, and have been in communication with Mr. Majcher and Mr. Bayle since. This would certainly qualify as a violation of the Creative Commons license under which Device LFO was released, as it would infringe upon the intellectual property rights of any non-public domain patch. Over the course of the weekend, several readers on the Ableton forum were able to demonstrate what Mr. Majcher had told CDM, that a portion of Device LFO was reused in LFO Everything without being attributed. (See the two threads, if you wish: the original LFO Everything thread, and one following allegations of plagiarism.) I was unaware of any of these concerns when I originally posted the article.

The portion in question is not the entire patch, but a specific subpatcher that handles parameter control in Live.

Mr. Bayle has since confirmed to me that he used a portion of a patch in LFO Everything that was not his, failing to attribute it to its original creator. He describes the incident as unintentional, and says it was not malicious. He has released a 1.6 update to LFO Everything, replacing the parameter control components with a new JavaScript technique, and he has made the rewrite open source under a Creative Commons attribution license. (Mr. Majcher separately verified that the new technique is original to Mr. Bayle.) That said, it was certainly not my own intention to point to a patch that in any way infringed on another’s work.

Mr. Majcher expressed a desire to move on from the incident, and as the original developer, I think the best course of action is one that benefits his work and the developer community as a whole.

I can say that the tone of discussions on the forum (and to some extent comments on this site) have become what I would characterize as emotional, independent of the parties directly involved. I did not wish to add to those discussions. I know Mr. Bayle, I’ve performed on a program with him, I can verify he’s an experienced and capable developer, and he’s in the past contributed to the Max community and music making community at large. I am not arguing his original release was in the right, and I don’t defend the way he responded to the situation, but I’m sorry to see that it’s happened. Having been introduced to Mr. Majcher’s work, I’m equally impressed by his output, I’m very sorry indeed that his work was appropriated without credit, and I’m sorry that I was not fully confident of the sequence of events until today.

Looking beyond this particular case, to avoid this happening in the future, it’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of careful attribution, particularly when things like Max patches are routinely constructed from snippets lying around your hard drive. Whether or not you believe Mr. Bayle was in the right, it is all to easy to do something similar. I do not see this question as directly connected to whether or not something is “open source.” Whatever the license – including popular free software licenses like GPL, BSD, and Apache – whether open source or proprietary, any work that is not explicitly public domain requires attribution. Any work in the US (and many other countries) automatically receives copyright protection. This is an area about which we all must be very careful, both for legal and, more importantly, ethical reasons. Whether any of us is perfect, we can, at least, endeavor to do better, and to communicate with other developers. That’s not a direct comment on this case; it’s simply a lesson worth taking away, whether you’re an “open source” developer or not.

Also, independent of this issue, since readers brought this up, CDM can’t cover everything, our coverage isn’t perfect, and not every single blog post should be considered an endorsement. Maxforlive.com has a superb library of Devices and resource, and worth exploring. If there are devices of particular interest, do let me know about them; we have an open comment form. Feel free to send in tips more than once if you feel strongly; my inbox is a crowded place. Even before concerns about LFO Everything, I heard from readers who felt I had omitted other work somehow by design. That is, believe me, never my intention.

Thanks to those who were directly in touch regarding LFO Device and LFO Everything.

  • lala

    gee, i'm so tired of reading stuff about max4live, and all that jazz about a simple lfo.

    I'm off to make music with numerology which is a few 100$ cheaper than max/ max4live, where i dont have to script anything (and scratch my head) to wire things up in interesting ways. Dont belive the c74/ableton PR hype!

  • http://www.canenerosketchbook.blogspot.com Canenero

    Hey that's a lot of controversy there…

    yesterday i just started a blog about max msp patches and ideas sharing

    here it is: &nbsp ;www.canenerosketchbook.blogspot.com

    Take it easy, max is fun :-)

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes, I agree — keeping this stuff fun is very, very important. So back to our regularly scheduled programming. ;)

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    I missed all the controversy, but you wrote an excellent and well-worded letter Peter. Frankly I'm quite fine with what appears to be an appropriate capstone being my only interaction with the attribution snafu.

  • CSX

    Cheers Peter. Well said.

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    Since M4L appeared, I have always been intrigued about using M4L's building blocks in patches is legal when you publish the patch or worse, if you sell it. Ableton/C74's policy about this is obscure, and there have been lots of commercial patch releases lately. Worth finding out, after this debate.

  • danny s

    plus, this sort of conflict causes folks to not share their treasures on the 'webs.  think of how many folks cobbling together interesting devices for m4l that will read the original entry and/or this one and just say "fuggit" rather than publication and keep their work to themselves — free or otherwise.  it's a dangerous path for a community that relies on overlapping knowledge and experience.  as cooptrol notes, the ownership and licensing of max stuff is a fuzzy, soupy, grey area, due to the nature of max's elemental and subsystem-based architecture.

  • Peter Kirn

    @danny s: There's a pretty easy answer to that, though, at least when you're assembling stuff.

    If you want others to be freely repurpose your patch, include a GPL license or other explicit license that lacks murky field of use restrictions. ("Non-commercial" restrictions are discouraging because they aren't clearly defined. It's your choice if you want to use them, it's just not your best option if you're trying to encourage reuse.)

    Include a copy of the actual license with the file, and a reference to yourself and the license in the patch and in the readme.

    If you want to reuse others' work, look for patches that are similarly licensed.

    I hesitate to bring up Pd, because people might – mistakenly – believe I'm making an open source versus proprietary argument. But many, many Pd patches have explicit GPL licenses in the patch, including in example patches. This means there's no doubt whatsoever about the reuse of those components, as in the Rj composers' pack.

    There's no reason that a) Max patches couldn't do the same thing, b) example patches couldn't do the same thing, and c) people couldn't go on to sell patches with those licenses, provided the license remains intact. (Oh, and not all Pd patches are immune to this problem, either.)

    That said, in this case, Edward was explicit with his patch. If you keep track of where components come from and you take care, you really can avoid this kind of misunderstanding.

  • Peter Kirn

    Also, an important distinction: these are individual artists we're talking about. It's possible to work things out, even if there's a significant misunderstanding or even if someone is genuinely in the wrong. (Given the choice between punishing someone you believe is wrong, and actually getting them to right that wrong, which would choose? I'd tend to opt the latter.)

    Individuals are easy. Be glad it isn't Google and Oracle:
    http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/21/android-source

    This isn't a problem open source has. It's a matter of attribution, licensing, and intellectual property rules covering *both* proprietary and open source code. You have to operate by the same laws, the same ethics either way. As an individual, your first step should just be to communicate.

  • http://www.digitalfunfair.co.uk Gavin

    Infringing licences is certainly an issue but in this case it is an issue which would've been easily solved by a public apology.

    We all make mistakes and when there is so much code floating around its easy to lose track and use something of someone else's.

    But in most cases an apology and retraction/permission are enough to sort it out.

    I'm surprised and disappointed that wasnt the case this time.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes, as I said, I'd encourage people to first communicate if you get into this situation.

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    What about the building blocks?

  • David A

    His name is Julien Bayle.

  • Zoopy

    The thing that is weird is that there is a whole section of FREE lfo max4live plugins on this website.. many different variations..Puremagnetik has a couple commercial ones that are really cool, too.

    http://www.maxforlive.com/library/index.php?tag=l

  • Jonah

    Peter, your stance on not deleting the original post was very honorable/ethical/cool! I really respect that. 

    At first I thought copying someone else's code(and selling it) was wrong/lame/sleazy, but then I realized I sample the hell out of various audio sources and I don't feel bad. I'm not sure what to think now.

    The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction needs a sequel!
    http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philoso

  • Random Chance

    This whole affair only adds to my feeling that selling Max patches (or Reaktor patches and similar things for that matter) is somehow wrong (not necessarily morally or ethically, but rather on a technical level). But then I also believe that it's quite strange that someone would buy Max and Max4Live and instead of using all the time available to create something of his or her own downloads patches created by others, perhaps even paying for them. For me Max is useful and interesting precisely because it allows me to build things that I imagine, not because others have created patches. But if you see M4L as a productivity tool downloading other peoples' patches is probably the only feasible way to go.

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    @you looks like a girl… pre menstrual princess blues?

  • http://braduro.com James Levine

    Well, reactor or max, Live for me has to always come back to stability. If I metaphorically patch my whole set together with scotch tape, I sure hope I'm taking responsibility for what comes out, whether I'm "borrowing" other's patches or making my own. Somehow reminds me of how iTunes came into the market during all the napster controversy. Turns out people actually want to pay 99c to 1) know where their music came from 2) assure a certain degree of quality and avoid malicious code (even if that quality is a compromise) 3) have a secure check-out. 

    I want to pay for things that I know are built to hold up. Beyond blowing my mind in my bedroom, how many of these reactor/max patches would you trust on-the-spot decisions with (I'm not talking about a successful take, but something that just works, is economical with CPU etc.), and how many are mucking up your computer?

    For those who would buy MAX just for one or two solutions to their studio, perhaps a niche of developers ought to consider getting into spec solutions for private clients, just as a template developer for Filemaker would, or a Point-of-sale system might be created for a larger business. But truth be told, these customized solutions are almost always plagued with problems, from limited support, to flimsy user experience.

  • Peter Kirn

    "y"/"you" claimed I didn't need trolls, so – problem solved! Deleted!

    For the record, I intended to do an update – and communicated as much – long before the comment thread on CDM, as Edward contacted me directly, which is I think the appropriate thing to do.

    I may not deserve trolls, but it's the Internet; I'm sure I haven't seen the last trolling. ;) Everyone back to making music now…

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    yeah , well said!!

    o check out this amazing m4l patches on duty:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgIosccwlA0

  • http://soundcloud.com/jonowise jono

    what about patches and data for other programmes people put alot of effort into reactor patches , jasuto , pure data , and the like! what rights do those people have probably worth a separate discussion on data programming rights in it's self

  • lala

    The intellectual-property thing is getting out of hand these days, i think. We are all building apon ideas someone else had, otherwise we would still make music beating a rock with a stick;)

  • Peter Kirn

    @lala: I'd put it a different way – look at the positive spin. Forget legality and intellectual property. Attribution is an opportunity to advertise the connections we make with other people, the ideas we build upon. It can help other people to follow those same connections. And an open source license is a way to explicitly encourage people to build on your ideas when that's what you want – precisely because of the value of building on other ideas.

    I hope we'll focus a bit more this year on some of those positives.

  • lala

    @peter kirn: I'm not negative about this, i love & support CC & open source stuff, im just sick of restrictions like you cant use that because GPL or GEMA blahblah …

    "I hope we’ll focus a bit more this year on some of those positives."

    Yes, please!

  • lala

    @peter: I love the icon im getting here, may I use it for my next CC audiorelease?

  • Peter Kirn

    @lala: Go for it!

    I hope we'll get a chance to fiddle around with the software that generates these icons. It's a fun little piece of open source PHP software that does it:
    http://www.splitbrain.org/projects/monsterid

  • lala

    cool, i'll send you the link in a mail when its online, anyway

  • http://humanworkshop.com durk

    I heard Amon Tobin sampled records, I want my money back!

  • lala

    omg, the beatles used a melotron

  • flonk

    It's of course not expected for a blog to double-check the soure of everything released. But:

    This is not some kind of contoversy, or misunderstanding, or a matter of "Whether or not you believe Mr. Bayle was in the right", it totally obvious that it was just copy and paste if you look at the code, and the statements by Julien Bayle in the forums are completely inaceptable. Julien Bayle is a liar for claming he came up with the code himself and claming it was just the same idea. And I would feel much more comfortable here if it was told the way it is.

    THE NAME PROTODECK IS NOW A TRADEMARK

    lol good luck with that.

  • David _A

    Julien Bayle.

    **************

    Liar.

    -

    Cheat.

    -

    Thief.

    ***************

    Ableton Certified.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/leolodreamland/ Leon Trimble

    the problem with a lot of these max for live patches that send messages to parameters of devices is that none of them get saved… you could spend 5/10 minutes after loading a new track routing all the LFOs to stuff let alone remembering which one it was. no good in live performance, which is where you want automation…

    Is there any kind of way for m4l to remember this?

  • http://identica.ca Greg

    Stop saying "intellectual property," please.
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html