Friday, April 22, 2011

British music publishers try to seize domain over 90 year old music

The International Music Score Library Project is many things - a wonderful public resource; an index of public domain sheet music; a good deed in an ugly world.

What it isn't - and let's be clear about this - is some sort of Pirate Bay/Napster type outfit, creating listings without considering the copyright status of what it indexes.

So it was a bit surprised when the British Music Publisher's Assocation made its domain name registrar, the supine, seize its address because it listed a link to Rachmaninoff’s Bells. Which is in the public domain in the US and Canada.

The takedown demand sent to GoDaddy contained a massive lie:

Dear sirs

We, the Music Publishers Association, take action to remove unlicensed copyright material from infringing websites.

We understand that Godaddy are the sponsoring registrar for the website http://www.IMSLP.ORG which makes available unlicensed copyright protected sheet music notation which is an infringement of copyright. By assisting this website, Godaddy are liable to pay damages for secondary copyright infringement once notice of the infringement has been given.

We therefore request that you withdraw from all associations you have with http://www.IMSLP.ORG and retract their domain name so that the website cannot be accessed.

An example of the infringing material on http://www.IMSLP.ORG is ‘The Bells’ by Rachmaninov which can be reached via: [link]

This material is copyright protected in most counties including all European countries and the USA.

Here are the registrant’s details to the best of our knowledge:

Registrant Name:Edward W. GuoRegistrant Organization:Project Petrucci LLCRegistrant Street1:205 S. Charles St.Registrant Street2:Registrant Street3:Registrant City:EdwardsvilleRegistrant State/Province:IllinoisRegistrant Postal Code:62025Registrant Country:USRegistrant Phone:+1.6186565143Registrant Phone Ext.:Registrant FAX:Registrant FAX Ext.:Registrant Email:

We have good faith belief that use of the material in this manner is not authorized by the copyright owner or the law.

The information in this notification is accurate and we confirm, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner of an exclusive right of that is infringed.

I would be grateful for your response detailing your undertakings by 3 May 2011.

Yours faithfully,

Jake Kirner Printed Music Publishing Administrator Music Publishers Association 6th Floor, British Music House, 26 Berners Street, London W1T 3LRDirect Tel: +44 (0)20 7637 4052Fax: +44 (0)20 7637 3929 (please confirm fax by sending me an email) the_MPA on twitter
When the ISMLP published this letter online, pointing out that it simply wasn't true to claim that the piece was in copyright in the US, how did the Music Publishers Association react?

Why, yes, the apologised, sent round a big basket of muffins and promised to be more careful in future.

Not really. The Music Publishers Assocation tried to get ISMLP to remove the takedown notice from the internet.

Eventually, the MPA realised it was in the wrong, withdrew their demands to GoDaddy and the website was back working normally. The ISMLP were graceful in their victory.

There remain questions, though.

Why did the Music Publishers Assocation send the takedown in the first place?

Did they really believe that the piece was in copyright in the US - in which case their lack of understanding of copyright law suggests they're not the right people to represent music publishers in an increasingly complicated IP environment.

Or did they know it wasn't in copyright in the US, but decided to have a crack at getting a site closed because they perceive it as an irritant to their business - in which case they'd be open to accusations of immorality and underhand tactics?

Or do they simply churn out these demands without even reading what they're putting into the post (no better than a common blogger) which suggests they're simply incompetent?

I've tried to think of an explanation that doesn't make the Music Publishers' Assocation sound like either a Keystone Cops or Luther Industries style outfit, but I really can't.

Even if there had been merit in the case, does the MPA really have so little to worry about that it has resources to burn through protecting the work of a Russian who died in 1943? The implication that there's no living, British songwriters whose work needs their protection suggests that that piracy they're so worried about is almost at an end.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Copyright laws are getting thoroughly outdated now. But what can you do except support the Open Rights Group whenever you can?

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