During the recent take-down of IMSLP by the UK Music Publishers Association something heartening happened.
People went to download a score from IMSLP and found the site unavailable. News of the take-down spread on Twitter and elsewhere.
A substantial cross-section of the international classical music community – pianists, conductors, viol consorts, composers, music students, music librarians, makers of ornate wooden music stands, music journalists, opera singers, music academics – went on the internet and expressed their unhappiness at the MPA’s behaviour.
The MPA, rather unwisely, then tried to persuade IMSLP Journal to censor the take-down notice. We declined and publicised the demand – the attempted take-down of the take-down notice (I know, I’ve read Kafka too). Cue: a further trumpet voluntary of incredulity rang out across cyberspace.
A few hours later the MPA used Twitter – interestingly – to raise the white flag.
- the speed with which the MPA was persuaded to see reason. When Universal Edition attacked IMSLP, the take-down went on for months. Okay, circumstances differ in this case, but the fact remains that IMSLP was back online within 24 hours;
- the solidarity shown by musicians from across the globe in support of IMSLP. It was a genuine international coalition. Classical musicians can be fractious and egotistical but, in the end, they’re trained to play together. It’s their job. Give them a good score and they make a terrific noise;
- the skill and confidence with which the new media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums etc – was used to place pressure on the MPA. Classical musicians should be proud.
IMSLP – non-profit, staffed by volunteers – is an organisation which musicians have shown themselves willing to defend. It’s an essential part of the world music scene; an iconic cultural treasure trove for everyone concerned with music heritage.
IMSLP is also a jewel in Canada’s artistic crown, as a recent CBC News report illustrates. To attack IMSLP is to attack Canadian high culture. Music publishers beware. Do you really want the Mounties after you?!
This article is to thank musicians and music-lovers everywhere for defending IMSLP. It’s fair to say that without your support last month IMSLP would still be offline.