IMSLP in trouble - who's next?

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IMSLP in trouble - who's next?

Post by IdZ »

The International Music Score Library is in severe trouble, caused by a Cease and Desist letter from Universal Edition. The Library-owner has closed down the site for the moment.

Any chance that the same could happen to CPDL?
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Post by mjolnir »

One cannot say that there is no chance that CPDL might receive a Cease and desist letter. And before writing anything else, I should note that I am not an attorney in any jurisdiction, and what follows is only my opinion. However, there are a few differences between practices at CPDL and those a IMSLP that make me believe that it is much less likely that CPDL will receive such a letter. For one thing, IMSLP was more aggressive about hosting items. The main servers of ISMLP were in Canada, and most score images were there. But an item which was still copyright in Canada, but in the public domain in the US, was hosted on special servers set up in the US to host it. Additionally, though I haven't read the Cease and Desist letter issued to IMSLP, one other substantial difference between IMSLP and CPDL is that IMSLP relied more heavily on scans of published scores, while CPDL relied more on re-setting the files. Third, I understand that requests to remove files have been made to CPDL by parties claiming copyright in the past, and these have been promptly complied with, without shutting down the site. I would expect if such a letter were received by CPDL, the named scores would be removed, but the balance of the site left active.

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IMSLP's Cease & Desist letter pointer is here:

Post by johnhenryfowler »

The cease and desist letter is here: ... Letter.pdf

A list of the titles of the music that Universal Edition was upset about is here:
Last edited by johnhenryfowler on 22 Oct 2007 18:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by pml »

Hi IdZ:

Is there any chance of CPDL being attacked in the same manner as IMSLP has been? You'd better believe it.

It would appear there's a very good reason why I haven't posted my choral score of Schönberg's Gurre-lieder to CPDL in the last 5 years.

Be alert, but not alarmed.

Regards, Philip
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Post by mjolnir »

There is one difference of Copyright law that I have not seen referenced, which may be a factor in the C&D notice from Universal Edition. There is a copyright in the EU, which I know does not exist in the U.S., and which I believe is not part of the relevant Canadian Statutes--the graphical copyright. Under the GC, the publisher of a work has a copyright of 25 year duration on the layout of a particular work of music, even if the music itself is in the public domain. It is by virtue of the GC that the Oxford University Press publication, "Weddings for Choirs", published in 2002, claims copyright on Sir C. V. Stanford's "Beati quorum via", even though under EU copyright law the music is in the public domain under the "death + 70" rule. The fact that IMSLP suggested scanning scores increases the chance that it violated graphic copyright rules; by contrast, a substantial plurality of the scores on CPDL are not scanned, but instead re-set, which might be an additional measure of defense against this.
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Post by Cdalitz »

I do not know in which EU country a "graphical copyright" exists, but AFAIK there is no such thing in Germany.

The 25 years period however exists in Germany, but for posthumous published works and for "scientific critical editions", i.e. editions using more than one primary source. Note that for these editions any kind of use is forbidden (also transcription by hand/computer is not allowed, and performers using such an edition must pay fees (in addition to buying copies of the music!)).

Please also note that most countries (including Germany) have laws against unfair competition which forbid the typing in of a music edition and its redistribution in competition to the vendor of the score (a posting to CPDL probably qualifies for such an "unfair competition"). This is independant of copyright and thus even applies to editions of public domain music, but is restricted for 50 years. The terms of 50 years have been set by a German law court, but I suspect that they are similar in the US, because incidentally the reference trial was about a US publisher who had ripped off (read: sold photocopies of) an edtion of public domain music by a different German publisher.

Thus you are on the safe side, when you
  • only use music of composers that are more than 70 years dead (EU terms) and whose works were published more than 90 years ago (US terms)

    and only transcribe from editions that have been printed more than 50 years ago
It follows that you may never use an edition that has been printed in the last 50 years. It is usually the best to obtain a photocopy from a library holding an extant copy of the first print (which usually requires some knowledge in white mensural notation).
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Re: IMSLP in trouble - who's next?

Post by D-fished »

(From Cdalitz):

"It follows that you may never use an edition that has been printed in the last 50 years. It is usually the best to obtain a photocopy from a library holding an extant copy of the first print (which usually requires some knowledge in white mensural notation)."

Does anyone know how the law applies in the case of works like the Edmund Fellowes editions of Elizabethan madrigals or the old Purcell Society edition? The Fellowes editions came out (I think) in the 1920's, but were reprinted in the 1970's or 80's with a 'copyright renewed' statement. Presumably, this means that you can't reproduce the original 1920's printings either. I think a similar thing happened with the Purcell Society as well.

I've heard of 'graphical copyright' before, but under the name 'presentational copyright'. As far as I know, it holds for North America, too.

A couple of related questions:

Are Dover and Kalmus reprints of PD material themselves free of copyright (except for new prefatory material, etc.)? Some of my Dover scores only say 'Published in 19XX', but my copy of the Brandenburgs from the Bach-Gesellschaft edition specifically says 'Copyright 1976'. The difference seems to be that a new editorial summary was added by Dover. I can see copyright on that, but on photo-reproductions of the BG? Come on.

What about facsimiles like the Corpus of Early Music reprints of Renaissance partbooks? They don't seem to contain explicit copyright statements. There are neither authorial nor presentational issues here. (I have seen some facsimile editions that do claim copyright for the reprinter. I've seen others that have a statement to the effect that the new editorial commentaries are copyright—implying, it seems, that the musical portion is not.)

Can any copyright savvy contributors clear this up?

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Re: IMSLP in trouble - who's next?

Post by DrewE »

These are issues that vary from country to country.

In the United States copyright only extends to creative works, and so purely editorial changes with no creative input do not create or extend any sort of copyright protection. There is no such thing (in the US) as a "typographical copyright"; nor, to the best of my knowledge, limitations from unfair competition or similar things for published works. (I assume the court case Cdalitz refers to was a case in a German court, and only implies that US companies doing business in Germany must adhere to German laws when doing so, which is of course only reasonable and expected.)

There's also nothing that prevents people from placing copyright notices on things that are not covered by copyright, such as facsimile editions of public domain works, even though such notices would not be enforceable in court. At least for publications with an international audience, I suppose it may be argued that such unenforceable (in the US) notices are appropriate, since there may well be some rights to be claimed in other places. Still, I find them rather insidious and detestable, since it tends to add confusion rather than clarity to the legal standing of the works.

(For the record, I'm not a lawyer nor a legal expert; use this information at your own risk.)