Tag Archives: Rachmaninoff The Bells

IMSLP, Copyright & the MPA (UK)

All IMSLP score pages on the wiki now carry the following statement:

imslp-mpa

Example

This post on the IMSLP forums by Carolus, an IMSLP administrator, explains the background:

***

Now that things are calming down some, I wish to thank the Music Publishers Association of the UK for retracting their DMCA complaint to GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s standard response to a DMCA copyright complaint of this nature is to freeze the domain for 10 days, instead of referring the complaint to the site owner. Thus we all owe the MPA-UK sincere thanks for their retraction. I also want to take the opportunity to point out that IMSLP in no way advocates the violation of copyright laws, either now or in the past. As our disclaimer – which must be acknowledged before any visitor is allowed to download a file – explicitly states:

Please obey the copyright laws of your country and consult the copyright statute itself or a qualified IP attorney to verify whether a certain file is in the public domain in your country or if downloading a copy constitutes fair use.

In many cases where a given work is most likely still protected in one or more of our three territorial divisions – 50 pma countries, the USA, 70 pma countries – we have provided direct links to copies of the item available for sale at Sheet Music Plus or at Amazon. Full Disclosure: IMSLP does receive commissions from both concerns if someone actually purchases a copy, which go to fund our operating expenses – which have never stopped increasing as we’ve grown.

Thus, if Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, Op. 35 is still under copyright in your country, you should be purchasing the score from its lawful copyright owner unless the fair-use provisions of your country’s copyright statutes permit the download of the score and you are operating within those exemptions. It might not be legal for you to download the score from this site, so please be certain it is before you do. This, of course, was the one of the main issues of the cease and desist letter Feldmahler received back in the fall of 2007 from Universal Edition. They were demanding that IMSLP set up some sort of automated blocking system based upon the users IP address. There are a number of reasons that such a scheme is simply not feasible, but I’ll just address a single major one here: the lack of uniformity about what constitutes a fair-use exemption to copyright among the laws of various countries.

One reason our copyright tagging system works as well as it does is that we have divided copyright laws around the world into two major groupings according to term length: life-plus-50 years (Canada, Japan, China, and a majority of countries in the world outside of Europe) and life-plus-70 years (Europe and a few other countries – like those in the former USSR), plus a major exception to the general rule. The monster exception is of course the USA, whose copyright law is probably the most complicated morass of rules and exceptions found anywhere on the planet. The fact that our parent company is headquartered there – despite the main server’s Canadian locale – means we absolutely must pay very close attention to US law. Thus we have three major copyright classes under our tagging system: 50-pma / USA / 70-pma. That’s why you see a three-part indication for every file. A tag reading V/V/V should be free almost anywhere in the world.

There are approximately 180 different laws in force worldwide at present. It is simply not possible for anyone – not even a major commercial concern like Amazon – to keep daily track of 180 or more different copyright laws, each with different exemptions for fair use and other purposes, etc. – many of which are also frequently subject to changes, from either legislative amendments or judicial interpretations.