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Standard MIDI Files
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About Standard MIDI Files (SMF) Specification

The Standard MIDI Files (SMF) Specification [RP-001] was developed in 1990 for file exchange between MIDI sequencers, and quickly became a popular format for distributing music.

The following enhancements and updates have been adopted:

About SMF and US Copyright Law

Unlike a CD or Cassette recording, a Standard MIDI File does not contain sounds, but it does contain a 'fixation of the performance" representing a "musical work", and therefore an SMF may be used to register a musical work with the US Copyright Office. The US Copyright Office has also stated that an SMF on a computer disc is also subject to the same licensing laws that apply to CDs and Cassettes (mechanical licensing).

The US Copyright Office ("USCO") is now accepting copyright registration filings for your original music in Standard MIDI File (SMF) format, as well as for sequences (covers) of published and recorded songs.

  • Instructions are now available on this site for completing USCO form SR for submitting a MIDI file.
  • Authors simply wishing to register an original music composition but not the sequence should use USCO form PA to meet those registration requirements.
  • USCO forms PA and SR are available for downloading from www.loc.gov/copyright/forms .

Important Printing Instructions: The forms should be printed head to head (top of page 2 is directly behind the top of page 1) using BOTH SIDES of a single sheet of paper. NOTE: Short forms are one sided. Dot matrix printer copies of the forms are not acceptable. Inkjet printer copies of the forms require enlarging if you use the Shrink to Fit Page option. To achieve the best quality copies of the application forms, it is recommended that you use a Laser Printer.

The forms submitted to the Copyright Office must be clear, legible, and on a good grade of 8.5-inch by 11-inch white paper. The quality of the copyright application forms submitted for registration directly affects the quality of the copyright registration certificate you receive. The Copyright Office produces completed registration certificates through an optical scanning system that utilizes an image scanned from the original application submitted. As a result copyright applications submitted that are of poor print quality will negatively affect the print quality of the copyright registration certificate you receive. For these reasons, the utmost effort should be made to submit the best quality application form possible.

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Document Publishing Information

The Standard MIDI Files Specification (RP-001) is available as part of the Complete MIDI 1.0 Detailed Specification document, and the enhancements (RP-017, RP-019, RP-026, and RP-032) are only available online.

Download Standard MIDI Files Specification (TBD) (pdf)

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