Final Fantasy XIV, Bards, and Performing Music

I’ve made no secret that Final Fantasy XIV is my MMO of choice recently. (I’m even beginning to stream it on Twitch occasionally too, come hang out!) Recently a new feature was added that has raised a lot of legal questions (and ruffled the feathers of many legal opinion-havers on reddit and elsewhere online), so I thought I’d try to address a few of them.

Bards Can Play Music Now?!

The 4.15 patch for Final Fantasy XIV was released last week, and among its additions to the game is a new “Perform” action that allows Bards to actually play songs note by note on their harps in-game.


Look at all those notes!

This feature has been requested by many of the game’s players for some time, as Final Fantasy XIV features a relatively large community of dedicated role-players who enjoy acting out stories with other players within the game. A feature like this is just another way for such players to really get “in character” within the game (assuming that character happens to be musically inclined).

While the game director’s intention with this feature might’ve been to give players the ability to play their own compositions (and/or melodies originally from FFXIV itself), I think we all knew what was going to happen as soon as this feature went live. The first time I logged into the game after patch 4.15, everywhere I walked I was within earshot of someone playing one of the ocarina songs from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and almost immediately there was a wiki up on reddit with various melodies.


“Who’s been playing MY music?!”

Copyrights on Music

Therein lies a potential problem with this feature: musical works are protected by copyright, and music copyright in particular can be a tricky, complicated onion: there’s a bunch of layers (I almost typo’ed that to “lawyers,” which could also be accurate), and they can often lead to tears when not handled properly.

Continue reading