Saturday, October 20, 2007

Corporations 5,312 - Public Interest 2

Scott Strader informed me that the International Music Score Library Project has gone down. Follow the link to find out the details of Universal Edition's Cease and Desist and the IMSLP owner's decisions. I had just pointed my students to this resource last week, so they could practice dictations while on break, away from the music library. And my students have access to a good score library for most weeks of the year. What about those musicians and music lovers who don't have academic affiliations? This is very sad and I hope some other institutions, especially groups like CMS, AMS, SMT, and MENC, do take up the mantle to provide a fully legal version.


Allen H Simon said...

"Fully legal" isn't the issue. It's about differences in copyright duration between one country and another. Scores which were public domain in Canada (where IMSLP is located) were still copyrighted in the EU, where Universal Edition's lawyers are. The Web forces us to adhere to the most restrictive laws worldwide.

Scott said...

I'd call that issue "fully legal" in an international perspective, which is relevant as you point out. I don't mean to denigrate the efforts of the IMSLP, though. I only meant to suggest that larger forces who are able to comb through all the scores for compliance would be a good thing.

Daniel Wolf said...

UE is being very shortsighted here. For concerts works not yet in public domain, the score on paper, by itself, generates little or no income for a publisher, and often, only costs. When, however, a performer downloads a UE score and performs or records it, she or he must still pay a licence for any performance of the work, regardless of whether or not she or he has purchased a score, and that fee would then be collected via the local rights organization, or in theatrical contexts, via a grand rights contract. Moreover, publishers can continue to extract rental fees for performance-ready parts and other materials.

Scores online should be thought of as perusal and study materials, with their primary function being the solicitation of possible performances and recordings. Publishing houses no longer have monopolies on the means of producing scores, so the essential services that they can provide to a composer (in return for one half of her or his license feed) are marketing their work and, when applicable, managing rentals.

A publisher who does not place scores in online libraries is making a nonsensical distinction between paper scores in physical libraries (which are generally available only to academics) and online scores (which are available to anyone at any time) and is doing their composers a disservice by not using the best marketing tool currently available. A score placed online is a score with a stake in the repertoire of performable music; a score held closely by a traditional publisher is a score held captive.