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I very recently discovered a site for sheet music that was fabulous. It was called International Music Score Library Project and it had been started by an altruistic musician and a college student, who wanted to forward beautiful music in the world especially in places where you could hardly even find a score. I went there this morning to check titles and see if a certain piece was available. The music was all public domain. Many people out of the goodness of their hearts had spent hours and hours downloading music which no longer "belonged" to anyone onto the site. There was lots of music, great scores, available to anyone, anywhere with access to internet and a printer.

The site has been shut down because of the actions of Universal Editions;


The college student who had started the site two years ago, who had done so much to promote great music in the world, could not afford to fight them and took the site down. I am sure Universal Editions felt that it was cutting into their profits and acted accordingly. I would like to suggest that the greedy maneuvering of Universal Editions be punished. Their actions against this poor college student have served to hurt the entire classical music world.

The actions of Universal Editions result in

1)Musicians who otherwise can not afford the scores from the music are now cutoff from it.

2)Long dead composers who should be immortalized for the greatness of their vision are less likely to be heard.

3) The general public is less likely to hear, love, or support classical music.

4) People due to mounting costs and less familiarity will be less likely to have their children study classical music.

5) Classical music already mostly only for the wealthy or the incredibly lucky, is now even more for that select group.

I believe that in the end, the short term financial gain that Universal Editions might have made by stopping this great source of sheet music, even without any outrage, would slowly be obliterated as less and less people are drawn into classical music. The actions of Universal Editions in the long run are bad for all musicians, instrument sellers, instrument repair facilities, future and past composers, players of classical music, orchestras, music educators, sellers of sheet music, and quite frankly all of humanity. Universal Editions is not motivated by altruism.

Unless they rescind their action and financially assist in restoring International Music Score Library Project to its former glory, I suggest that we do the following




If there is any portion of this letter that you would like to use feel free!



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Letter posted at the former site of the greatest and most comprehensive free sheet music available;

Dear International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Contributors, Users and Supporters:

I really tried.

What follows in this open letter is what I hope will be an accurate reflection of my tumultuous thoughts in the past few days.

On Saturday October 13, 2007, I received a second Cease and Desist letter from Universal Edition. At first I thought this letter would be similar in content to the first Cease and Desist letter I received in August. However, after lengthy discussions with very knowledgeable lawyers and supporters, I became painfully aware of the fact that I, a normal college student, has neither the energy nor the money necessary to deal with this issue in any other way than to agree with the cease and desist, and take down the entire site. I cannot apologize enough to all IMSLP contributors, who have done so much for IMSLP in the last two years.

I also understand very well that the cease and desist letter does not call for a take down of the entire site, but, as I said above, I very unfortunately simply do not have the energy or money necessary to implement the terms in the cease and desist in any other way. Prior to this cease and desist I was already overloaded with server maintenance and the implementation of new features (as some of you know). I do not intend this to be an excuse in any way, but I do hope that IMSLP users and contributors may understand, even if very slightly. At the same time, I again apologize profusely to all IMSLP contributors that it has come down to this.

Another major reason behind me taking the server down is the fact, which I have been made painfully aware of in the last few days, that I can no longer support IMSLP adequately. Rather than limping along and having to take down the site later on, I believe it is best to take the site down right now, so as to not waste the further efforts of IMSLP contributors.

I have to thank here the great efforts on the part of two outstanding university law teams with regard to this case, and the very helpful advice and assistance that I have received pro bono. I cannot imagine what I would be like right now without their legal and moral understanding and support.

* * *

Since this open letter will be all that is left of IMSLP, I would like to explain here my original purpose and vision in the creation of IMSLP, because I do not think I ever told this to any IMSLP contributor (except one librarian who asked a long time ago).

I originally conceived of this project after visiting a certain country a few years ago. In what is one of the largest bookstores there, I discovered less than ten orchestral scores. As a musician and music lover, I find unacceptable the fact that such a wonderful thing as music can be so inaccessible in certain regions of the world. I believe that access to our culture and the Arts is a fundamental right of every human being, and not simply a privilege. Therefore, I had created IMSLP with the intention that music, which is in the public domain, should be freely accessible to every single person.

And it is solely for this purpose that I have spent so much time, money and energy in creating and maintaining the IMSLP. I have paid all the server bills myself, and have not received a single penny for anything I have done in relation to the IMSLP. I am not saying this so people may pity me, but just to put to rest any concern that I had any ulterior motive in the creation of the IMSLP.

* * *

I owe a great debt to all IMSLP contributors and users. At the beginning of IMSLP, I would have never imagined in my dreams the amount of dedication and love of music which drove IMSLP contributors to spent countless hours on IMSLP promoting music, making IMSLP the biggest online public domain music score library in less than two years. You are among people with the most passion for music that I have met in my life.

Be proud. Be proud that you were a contributor of the IMSLP. Regardless of what happens, I refuse to believe that the vision of the IMSLP, and what you did for that vision, was wrong. I hereby give you the right to curse me and flame me as a failed project leader.

* * *

So what happens now?

I will keep the IMSLP forums online for as long as there is interest. You may access it at imslpforums.org.

I will release the IMSLP Mediawiki extensions to the public in the hopes that other people will find them useful. I will also prepare a copy of the IMSLP Mediawiki database (i.e. the text on the site), with private information removed, and send it to anyone who requests. The IMSLP extensions are licensed under the GPL, and the IMSLP Mediawiki database is licensed under the GFDL. This letter itself is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

In addition, I will be willing to help and transfer the five IMSLP domain names to any organization who would like to continue IMSLP in some form or other; please contact me via imslp@imslp.org if you are interested.

If you have any questions or comments for me regarding IMSLP or this situation, please send an e-mail to imslp@imslp.org, and I will try to answer all of them. You may also use the forums if you believe that the question can be answered by other IMSLP contributors. Translations of this letter are very much welcome; you may post them on the forums, and I will move them to the main site.

* * *

In closing, I would like to give my uttermost thanks to people who have helped IMSLP in the past two years. I say this in no particular order.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP moderation team. You did all the grunt and janitorial work that kept IMSLP running so smoothly for almost two years.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP copyright review team. You have done way more than enough, and this incident at hand is in no way due to any fault on your part.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in redesigning the IMSLP website. Without you, it would have been impossible for a HTML-illiterate person like me to bring IMSLP to anywhere near the prettiness and ease of use that the final IMSLP website was. It is a great pity that IMSLP v0.5 was stillborn; it held the results of your recent labours.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP translation team for tirelessly translating IMSLP into eleven different languages so that IMSLP can be useful to many more people.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the IMSLP official projects for being a main driving force behind IMSLP. The project to make available the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe properly categorized and in its entirety, which was almost finished with one book to go (out of 46), will I am sure be sorely missed.

I would like to thank everyone else who contributed to IMSLP. You were and will always be part of the soul of IMSLP.

I would like to thank my host iWeb8 for the great experience I've had with them. Without them IMSLP would have not been possible. I strongly recommend them for anyone who is looking for hosting.

I would like to thank the Lighttpd development team and the Debian project, among many others, who write and provide great free software that was able to withstand a beating and then some.

I would like to thank the Mediawiki development team, not only for making a project such as Wikipedia (and, of course, IMSLP) possible, but also for writing very pretty and extensible code. I still throw fits after looking at the parser, but that is probably my fault.

I would like to thank all the libraries and educational institutions who have shown great interest in IMSLP. I am very sorry this has not worked out, but I was very happy for your support.

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who promoted IMSLP on blogs and forums; I check the referrals every once in a while, and am always very happy when I read about someone finding IMSLP useful for them.

And to everyone who have helped IMSLP and me over the past two years, I am forever in your debt.

* * *

Let me end by quoting Vershinin in Chekhov's play Three Sisters:

“And I wish I could make you understand that there is no happiness for us, that there should not and cannot be. ... We must only work and work, and happiness is only for our distant posterity. If not for me, then for the descendants of my descendants.� (thanks Project Gutenberg)

May we meet again under happier circumstances then.



Former project leader of the IMSLP

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I'm pleased someone else has drawn attention to this issue

(since I mentioned it below in another thread earlier today).

- Not because I want to necessarily casticate anyone

- laws are meant to protect as well as prosecute.

I think we would all commend the efforts and intentions of the

young person involved and the site in question.

There were always warning posted about the copyright complexities

and sometimes it did seem to me it was fairly dubious whether

everything was legal.

Having said that, the obvious energy and interest created

was an ndication of the real need for such a resource.

As was stated in the letter above, it is so hard for so many

to access scores, or even to be aware of their existence.

Maybe some good will cone of it all in the end somehow?

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Sorry didn't mean to double post, I hadn't been following the missing string post.

I think the basic law we should all follow is simply one of kindness. Laws are meant to protect as well as to prosecute, but if the laws are bad, than I think that they should be ignored. Not that that is necessarily the case here.

I do believe in paying artists for their work and publishers for their publishing.

I do feel from what I know of this case that Universal Editions could have been kinder. If there were a few cases of infringement they could have requested that those individual scores be taken down rather than threatening and forcing the dismantlement of such a valuable resource. Perhaps they could even have made a deal with IMSLP to ask for payment for the downloads of those scores that they owned. Of course they were probably very pleased to destroy the site because they make so much money publishing works that are legally in the public domain but still difficult for musicians to find.

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Having worked in publishing (book, not music) for the last 13 years, I understand where the publisher is coming from. If you read the letter, all they're asking is to have their copyright-protected works removed and to have protections in place to keep copyrighted material from being downloaded. I doubt it's greed so much as a simple desire to stay in business that is motivating them. Most publishers are struggling these days -- the industry has been hit hard by the Internet. My company (mega international publisher) has had four rounds of layoffs in as many years. It does bite when a team works 50-hour weeks to put out a quality edition of something, then gets downsized because the public would rather download a pirated version somewhere.

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Me too, I don't think one should get a free ride. It does not work that way.

My former teacher who was very poor (economic situation) but she bought everything from music store to support them. I never heard she encouraged any student to copy from each other.

Her car was at least 10 (if not 15) years old. She gained me a lot of respect to be a music

teacher. Same thing goes to music publisher too.

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Here is the update on the imslp.org website


UPDATE: Due to demand, I strongly encourage any organization

willing to support a continuation of IMSLP to contact me at

imslp@imslp.org . For everyone else, please check back from time to

time for news. I was very happy about all the moral support that

you showed on the forums and in e-mails, and I would like to

express my uttermost gratitude for the support. UPDATE 2: I am

currently in negotiations with various people and organizations in

the interest of continuing IMSLP. Please check back periodically

for more news. I have also been doing much thinking with regards to

the support I have received (and am much grateful for!), and wanted

to say the following: Do not hate Universal Edition. For they are

human, like us. They have reasons for their actions. I personally

do not believe their actions are for the good of the society, but

we are all human and we do make mistakes, sometimes large ones.

Instead of sending hate mail to Universal Edition, send mail to

Universal Edition explaning why their actions restrict the rights

of people around the world. I also believe that the fundamental

meaning of music is lost when music is used to split people into

opposing camps. For music is supposed to unite people, not divide

them. Music is supposed to make people understand, not alienate.

Therefore, I repeat again, do not hate Universal Edition. I am

positive that they love music as much as we do (or else why be a

music publisher?); the current situation at hand is simply due to a

misunderstanding between Universal Edition and us. That said, I

still would like to thank immensely the literally hundreds of

e-mails I've received in support of IMSLP. I don't think I

understood fully what I meant when I said I will respond to them

all, but I will keep my word. However, some responses may be very

late, and I apologize beforehand for this. Many people have also

requested copies of the database and extensions. I promise I will

release them; the issue right now is just that I am preparing for

my Masters application (which is due in a little more than a

month), and this incident has taken a further toll on my time, so I

may have to release the database and extensions late. I apologize

greatly for the delay! But I will keep my word.



Sounds like a nice guy, I hope that they get imslp back up and

running. Maybe more careful in the future about copyright issues?

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Calling for a boycott of Universal Editions seems rather out of scale given that they made a legitimate request, and even the site owner admitted that he was NOT forced to close down the site and only did so due to an inability to sort out the legal from illegal materials, and further admitted that he didn't think he'd be able to keep the site running in the long run anyway.

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The recording industry in the US has, in their attempt to crack down on piracy, ruined a great many lives financially through lawsuits that were...poorly aimed, to say the least.

Attorneys terrorized people (in one case a 9 year old girl who had never downloaded ANY songs) and financially destroyed people by forcing them to protect themselves. While "innocent until proven guilty" is the courtroom credo, "guilty unless you can pay to prove your innocence" has been the way in many instances.

I know this is not the recording industry, but it is quite easy for me to believe that there could actually be an element of greed taking place there. Hit a guy with a lawsuit and, baseless or not, if you have the money you can "win" because the accused has not the resources to stand up for himself.

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Many primitive civilizations throughout history have employed the

method of  "hired champions" to resolve their conflicts.

At any rate I think that the IMSLP has a ready solution

at hand should they chose this resolution. The Werner Icking site

(http://www.icking-music-archive.org/scores/Introduction.html) has

a similar archive hosted by a University and, presumably,

legitimate. If the legal portion of IMSLP is merged with this

archive and it's members continue through that medium we would all

be ahead of the game



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Perhaps the Federation of Classical Musicians or the Library of Congress or some combination should take on the project of immediately cataloging, scanning, and downloading works the minute they become public domain. Hopefully that is the good that will come of this I would be happy to donate money to support such a project.

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IMSLP's servers were located in canada, where the scores in question were all in the public domain. According to Universal Edition's own lawyers: "In Canada these composers are in public domain, but there are several countries providing copyright protection - this might be the general protection of 70 years after the composer´s death, but also special rules: e.g. the registration system in the USA, the war time extension in France or a longer duration - 80 years in Spain. This is the reason why the making available to the public and the download of these works could infringe copyright. "

UA wants to enforce its copyrights in a country where it holds no copyrights in the works in question. Can you imagine if every webmaster on the internet were required to abide by the laws of every single country from which a website can be accessed? Can you imagine if websites in the US could be censored by the Chinese government, the first amendment notwithstanding? The IMSLP's situation is analogous to that, and I will not condone it! This is not a matter of a publisher rightfully defending its intellectual property. This is about a publisher that wishes to milk a number of public domain works for all they are worth, against the public interest.

I, for one, think it's outrageous that with so many public domain works in existence it should be so hard to find public domain editions of public domain music online.

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Originally posted by:

IMSLP's servers were located in canada, where the scores in question were all in the public domain.

No, they weren't. Or at least that is the claim by UE. A little hard to tell now, since the site disappeared so suddenly. It does make me wonder whether the site owner was afraid of a close examination of the content.

From Universal Editions:

"(3) Many of the works that were requested to be removed are not public domain in Canada. Some may include independent editorial notation and information that grant those publications copyright extending past the 50/70 year mark. (see e.g. the discussion on the IMSLP.org forums regarding specific works by Mahler at http://imslpforums.org/viewtop...t=468&highlight=mahler and http://imslpforums.org/viewtop...storder=asc&highlight= with respect to their copyright status). You will note that the IMSLP organizers themselves acknowledged the copyright in Canada of at least one of these works by authors whose death date is more than 70 years in the past prior to the date of our client's demand letter. The other was debated as to the extent of the original editorial work. Other non-public domain works in Canada that were on the imslp.org site are by authors who have died less than 50 years ago (e.g. Joseph Marx)."

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Amend my statement to read that "many of the scores in question were in the public domain". After all, if "many of the works that were requested to be removed are not public domain in Canada", it logically follows that the rest of those works are indeed in the public domain in Canada. This would agree with the original statement by the lawyers that "in Canada, these composers are in public domain".

Now, please excuse me as I change the font and add a couple of fingerings to a Mozart score, so I can claim it as my property and prevent others from copying it. Yeah. That's the spirit.

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If Universal Editions cared about humanity then instead of threatening legal action they could have just written to the site owner and requested that the scores in question be taken down. Heck, Universal Editions could have a major PR coup and be a proud sponsor of the site, helping prescreen works before they went up to prevent an inadvertent mishap by someone who didn't know that there were still property rights on a particular score. If they had done this then UE would be the hero instead of the villain.

from Erika "A little hard to tell now, since the site disappeared so suddenly. It does make me wonder whether the site owner was afraid of a close examination of the content."

Really it is not like the site owner was making hundreds of thousands of dollars supplying illicit sheet music by illegally robbing others of their property rights This was a good person trying to spread the beauty of classical music in a narrow money grubbing world. This person was just a student and wasn't downloading all the sheet music alone. Of course he/she took it down quickly they were threatened with a major lawsuit by a huge corporation.

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"Now, please excuse me as I change the font and add a couple of fingerings to a Mozart score, so I can claim it as my property and prevent others from copying it."

Great idea. You will be rich! First change your name to Itzack Pearlman or Dorthey DiLay, so people might think that they recognize you as a famous violinist or pedagogue.

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Originally posted by:

If Universal Editions cared about humanity then instead of threatening legal action they could have just written to the site owner and requested that the scores in question be taken down.

They did. But just requesting that content be removed without future safeguards in place is like pushing water uphill with a fork. It would be like YouTube, where copyrighted content is reported, removed, and three days later someone uploads it again.

UE would have provided copyright status for any score if IMSLP had contacted them with specifics BEFORE publishing the works online. If you go to their site, you'll see they have contact information for anyone trying to determine the copyright status of a score. All publishers have a Rights department for this sort of thing. However, it doesn't exactly come across as a good faith effort if you publish content first and consider the legality of it afterward.

International copyright is murky waters. I suppose in theory I could set up a server in Afghanistan, or some other country with loose copyright laws and no copyright treaty with the U.S., and offer the New York Times bestseller list as free PDF downloads. But I also wouldn't be shocked if Simon & Schuster or Putnam Penguin tried to enforce their copyrights in this country by preventing downloads to the U.S.

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Can you imagine if Maestronet administrators were required to ensure that nothing posted to Maestronet's forums violates any copyrights, before any of the users can see it? Or if Wikipedia had to pre-screen every single article for libel or copyright infringement? It would impose an unreasonable burden upon each site, and they'd probably shut down just as IMSLP did.

It should be more than enough for IMSLP to take down any actually infringing works, upon reasonable notice. To demand they pre-screen all content is unreasonable, and I'm not aware of any law that requires them to do so.

No. I have zero sympathy for Universal Edition.

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sorry, but i have to disagree with most of the opinions on this thread. universal edition is a company, and a company's first priority is to generate revenue. and websites, unfortunately, are responsible for their content. universal edition has no obligation to assist IMSLP with pre-screening....they have enough to do as it is.

additionally, who benefits from this proposed boycott of universal editions? publishers are vital to the classical music industry. any music publishing firm would take the same actions that universal would if their editions were found to be illegally available for download.

i would also like to try to dispel this notion that publishers and classical record executives are making exorbitant amounts of money....profit margins in the classical world are generally pretty thin. i am a professional violinist, and ticket prices may seem high for some of my concerts, until you realize how much money my violin cost! this is not an example of 'music industry greed', but rather a reality of the music business of which i am a member. i do try to perform as many free outreach concerts as i can, but the reality is that if i offer too many free concerts, people will stop coming to my ticketed concerts. it's a delicate balancing act between "thinking of humanity" and staying afloat.

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The public has an interest in this, as well. Copyright is a bargain between the copyright holder and the public. The copyright holder is granted a temporary monopoly in exchange for contributing to the public domain. Universal Edition is trying to assert rights it doesn't possess in Canada, where IMSLP is located, and is trying to impose an unreasonable burden upon IMSLP by insisting they pre-screen every single work that is posted to their site (which is contrary to standard practice for user-contributed content on the Internet; see the Maestronet and Wikipedia examples I offered above).

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A better example might be online music and media. Consider the class-action suits against Google/YouTube. Just this week a consortium of media and Internet groups released new standards calling for filtering and blocking copyrighted content in addition to blocking IP addresses that repeatedly upload illegal content. Google is testing their own alternative of "video fingerprinting."

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"Universal Edition is trying to assert rights it doesn't possess in Canada, where IMSLP is located"

it is somewhat irrelevant where the server is located, because the content is instantly accessible around the world. courts in countries such as brazil and france have ruled against youtube because of copyright infringements in their respective countries, even though youtube is an american-based company. if youtube's content wasn't readily available to users in those countries, then it wouldn't be a problem. likewise, if IMSLP was only accessible to users in canada, then universal edition wouldn't have much of a complaint. however, IMSLP's content is accessible to users in countries where universal owns the copyright. seems to me that universal is on pretty sound legal footing.

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Grendel: I'm not at all convinced the server's location is irrelevant. By way of analogy, if I ran a website containing pictures of Mohammad, I don't think I should be forced to keep out visitors from Muslim countries.

Erika: There is no requirement in law to proactively filter out content, nor should there ever be. Frankly, I find it outrageous that giving users an online platform for the distribution of public domain content should carry such a heavy burden.

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Project Gutenberg Volunteers Partial IMSLP Hosting

Grendel, my understanding is that the works were/are out of copyright in Canada where the site is based. Someone in Austria doesn't like that then f*** them!

And this from someone who believes in copyright laws and does not illegally download stuff, but frankly I'm fed up with people in one country deciding what should happen in another. If they don't want internet users in their country accessing a site in another country that's there freaking problem to deal with!!


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