An orchestra librarian's open letter

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aslsp-fl
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An orchestra librarian's open letter

Postby aslsp-fl » Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:05 pm

First, let me present myself; it is the first time I post here. I am an European part time performer and composer; but my main job is being the head orchestra librarian at one of Europe’s main opera and concert houses. Under this description, I have worked several times directly with Universal Edition, I know some of the persons working there, I work daily with their agent in my country, and I believe that one of my own compositions is even represented in Austria by them through a sub-publishing agreement. So, I am in no way a anti-publishers fellows.

First, let me observe that I was expecting IMSLP getting into trouble. You cannot simply tell the user: it is your responsability. Life does not work so. In my opinion IMSLP should have kept a stricter control, and probably sticking to the EU term of copyright (life+70) would have been a sensible thing to do.

Second, let me tell it loud, we owe to Universal Edition some of the greatest compositions in the 20th century. Without Universal we would not have had a Berg or a Webern: they supported these composers in troubled and dangerous times, even when their music was forbidden under Nazi rule. Lifes were put at risk just to preserve forbidden scores from destruction. Probably no other publisher has done so much to support the cause of true art music in the past century.

But I add that when a copyright term expires, a publisher should live with it and not to try to overextend the protection. Janacek and Berg works not involving co-authors are already in public domain even under the stricter European rules, for example. Why is Universal dropping their names in their cease-and-desist letter?

While I find that Universal can and should legitimately protect its repertory, I think the way and wording of the letter are not appropriate. I have dealt with some copyright infringment cases myself - and in almost all the cases in which I have asked a file to be removed or a recording not to be duplicated, I have seen that true pirates are not to be intimidated by legal jargon (they usually disappear and come back with a different name), while bona fide amateurs are almost always ready to comply, without the need of harsher words.

Remember: amateurs and music students are making half of our public (or even more). Without them there would be little need of composers, performers, recording companies, concert halls, opera houses and, yes, even publishers.

So, as a performer, I decided, as a form of personal protest, to drop from my next concert, at the end of October, a piece published by UE (of course I have their original printed score); a little bit of performance fees will be relocated to a different publisher. Please note this is completely legitimate - after all, I am free to play what I like more, don’t you think?

In the long term, it could be quite dangerous for Universal to alienate people like me. A publisher earns its money not only from selling scores - this now is a minor business - but from performance fees and recording deals. Of course, I have no real control on the programs of the oraganization I work with - to be sure, nobody really has, not even our intendent, not even our music director, as concert seasons are developed in a team effort with conductors, players, managers and publishers. And of course Universal represent giant masterpieces of the standard repertory nobody can dispense with. But, being in the team and being also rather senior in my experience, I am often in the position of making suggestions about possible pieces to be performed, or performance materials to be chosen when choices are multiple. I can forward catalogues, advertising print and press announcements to relevant persons, or put them in a closet. To put it mildly, I can move between publishers much more money that you really think - and it does not even have to come from my own budget. - When a piece gets in our playing repertory, it may earn something to the publisher in orchestra material hire fees, performance fees, reprint fees for lyrics in program books, but much more in broadcasting fees (most of our concerts are on the European radio circuit and get broadcasted on multiple national radio networks, with occasional video coverage and even a couple of DVD productions per year). By the way, this is real money, much more than selling fifty copies of a four page rare piano piece at 16 euro each. No, people at Universal could not afford me getting just a bit angry about them.

Let me tell again, if anybody from Universal is reading: the work of a publisher is making deals, not intimidating amateurs. Tell IMSLP which files are disturbing you and why, and I am sure they can be removed. But do not try to overreach - this would be not fair. You can ask to be dealt in fairness, but you must be fair as well. You may even find wise to tolerate a little infringement, if I discover a nice forgotten piece you may end making more money from my performances than you would miss from lost sales. Who knows?

with best regards

Yagan Kiely
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Postby Yagan Kiely » Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:16 pm

Thanks you so much, for a very supportive letter.

You have our gratitude.

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Postby Indra » Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:56 pm

ArticWind7 wrote:

Yes I do know what it's like. I've had 2 hours sleep tonight because of it. When IMSLP went into down time to fixing, I half knew it wouldn't be back up any time soon...



I was looking for a score last night and then the tragically bad surprise,. It’s a very bad feeling.

I don’t sleep last night too

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Postby monteverdi » Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:57 pm

Also my thank for your thoughts which I very much sympathize with.

I do not know how many users we really are - but I guess we're not a too unimportant part of those people in the world who are interested in classical music at all - so let's use all our power to react to UE.

If we tell all musicians, performers, concert managers (and other people involved in music performances) to drop music published by UE from their programs (maybe even saying so and why we do that) until UE draws back its unfair attack to lovers of the freedom of thought - and if this idea spreads around the world, I'm sure we could reach something.

And IMSLP contributors: we should maybe follow a new goal to produce (legal) GNU-licence editions of ALL (every single!) out-of-copyright music that has been published by Universal Edition so that they shouldn't make any cent any more from this music. And there might be many composers who fall under the European rule of PD (>70 years after composer's death) over the next years.
I would be happy to provide webspace to share them with the world.

If we are many who do so, they would hope never to have been acting as they did...

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Postby Funper » Sat Oct 20, 2007 11:14 pm

monteverdi, now we are talking! :twisted:

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Postby mrscience » Sun Oct 21, 2007 12:35 am

What an interesting letter. Thank you for writing such a valuable perspective. What instrument do you play?

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Sun Oct 21, 2007 2:31 am

I do not know how many users we really are

This site reaches approximately 11,898 U.S. monthly uniques, has 62, 000 downloads a day, and recently reached over a million hits in a day. We do have numbers. Just have a look how many views a thread gets, or how many users are online, we have 36 guests right now, and a thread with three posts gets 200-300 views.

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Postby aslsp-fl » Sun Oct 21, 2007 6:38 am

mrscience, while the librarian job keeps me fairly busy, in my spare time I do organ recitals. In my next concert I will drop an UE piece for a IMSLP download of a little known public domain (19th century) work. - And, by the way, after I downloaded the piece, I ended buying anyway the original print (not published by UE). I do not think every IMSLP download is a lost sale to a publisher. First, a lot of pieces are downloaded for reference only - who could boast having read even an half of Bach complete works on a computer screen (and printing them would be a major chore)? Second, when you are serious, you often end buying a better or critical edition. Third, a bound book last longer than any copy or photocopy. Again, if you are serious, you need the original books. But maybe a download will send you in search of a book you did not even know it existed.

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Postby Vivaldi » Sun Oct 21, 2007 9:01 am

aslsp-fl, maybe you can ask UE kindly about this situation? But guessing from their obnoxious behaviour you'll be either ignored or they won't care a thing about what you think.

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Postby mrscience » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:53 am

alsp-fl: Absolutely. I've been playing piano seriously for almost ten years and I've never performed a downloaded piece of sheet music without eventually purchasing a copy for myself. But what bothers me most isn't the impracticality of UE's decision so much as the injustice of the consequences. Good luck on your recital!

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Postby pml » Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:59 am

alsp-fl: I agree with your sentiments especially in regard of Mahler and Schönberg, and U-E's bravery in continuing to publish their scores in the face of almost total neglect. IMSLP downloads most certainly doesn't represent a lost sale every time, as for the reasons you cited musicians and listeners alike will want a purchased bound score rather than a PDF printout.

To take one example: anyone who's seen the U-E 1912 and 1920 editions of the Gurre-lieder will see that Schönberg's artistry and calligraphy is fairly matched by U-E's typography; his fair copy MS in the 1912 facsimile is a work of art to look at, besides the act of hearing!

What I find beyond the pale is U-E's methods to intimidate Feldmahler personally as the directing mind of the IMSLP. I think Carolus summed it up: "Universal Edition's behavior here is frankly abominable and disgusting. It's something one would expect more from a phony enterprise owned by the North Jersey mob than from a classical music publisher."

Nonetheless, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and if IMSLP can bounce back from this setback, it will be a better website for it, for if the methods of preventing copyright infringment are implemented, it will render such litigious attacks much less likely to succeed. I would not support for one moment handing the IMSLP repetoire over to the Swedish Pirates - IMSLP should remain within the law to continue to "provide the most public domain music to the citizens of any particular country, as permitted by law". You don't hack off your hand to cure a hangnail.

Regards, PML
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PML (talk)

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Postby Matthieu » Mon Oct 22, 2007 11:53 am

I would not support for one moment handing the IMSLP repetoire over to the Swedish Pirates - IMSLP should remain within the law to continue to "provide the most public domain music to the citizens of any particular country, as permitted by law". You don't hack off your hand to cure a hangnail.


I share this point of view. Swedish Pirates are thousands miles away form IMSLP's philosophy. We were not fighiting for copyleft or looking for square up with classical music publishers.

Matthieu

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if you don´t like the law - change it

Postby Odin » Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:22 pm

Hello

Matthieu wrote:
I would not support for one moment handing the IMSLP repetoire over to the Swedish Pirates - IMSLP should remain within the law to continue to "provide the most public domain music to the citizens of any particular country, as permitted by law". You don't hack off your hand to cure a hangnail.


I share this point of view. Swedish Pirates are thousands miles away form IMSLP's philosophy. We were not fighiting for copyleft or looking for square up with classical music publishers.

Matthieu


The goal of the new Pirate Parties (not only the swedish one) is to
change the copyright legislation by democratic means to the favor
of the hundreds of thousands of users in the IT-community. A new
legislation will need a new formula how the creative art workers in
music, painting, writing and film-making can be granted a safe
income without a system of total surveillance in the style of Orwells
novel "1984" (with some decades delay). The solution of the Pirate
Parties does not mean the abolition of copyright but some serious
changes (e.g. no protection time longer than the artist´s lifetime).
A good way for all parts would be to meet for negotiations to find
a new compromise for authors, composers, film makers, publishers
and common users of the cultural products.

Open negotiations would be much better than any kind of a "War
on Piracy".

Unfortunately the behavior of UE towards IMSLP looked much more
like warfare than like an effort to solve a real problem. Once in its
historyUE protected artists under prosecution, now UE prosecutes
people themselves. Not a good carreer for a publisher. You should
never intimidate, blackmail or bully people today who might be your
customers tomorrow.

Sincerely
Odin

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:34 pm

Unfortunately the behavior of UE towards IMSLP looked much more
like warfare than like an effort to solve a real problem.
I don't believe protest marches, or pretests like what IMSLP are (generally, few exceptions which tend to lean into a more extreme option...) doing contistute anything similar to Warfare. Protests CAN be useful as long as it doesn't go over board and stays within the law.

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Postby Buxtehude » Mon Oct 22, 2007 1:29 pm

I totally agree with the librarian open letter.
Since I share with him the kind of work, even if for a more limited dimension ensemble, I'd like to point out also another aspect of the matter: you don't need sheet music just to play it.

I'll give you an example: very often, I write CD reviews for magazines or program notes for concerts. In this case, if you are a serious critic you will need to give a look at the score of the piece you are talking about and/or referring to. In this case, taking the example of Bach Cantatas, also the old Bach Gesellschaft ausgabe will be fine.
If I don't score with me and I am writing an article and I'm in a hotel, or on the train, or in my home in the evening while the nearest library is closed, I have to slow down the work until I can check the score. With a resource like IMSPL I could access a digital copy on my pc, check the detail I need and go on.

But if I have to build a serious performance of a Bach suite or a Beethoven Symphony I will surely use a good critical edition. Since our librarian is an organist, he will surely know the case of the Dover edition of Widor organ Symphonies, which is related to a very old edition modified by Widor himself: a performer using that edition careless of the mistakes (or worse: without knowing them) would be a performer who does not know his work.

On this point of view, no intelligent performer would prefer a score to another one just because it costs less money, or because it is free. The scores are the tools of the performer, and to have a good performance you need good tools.

Under this point of view, the UE protest seems to me really an act of violence against culture diffusion: people performing just for fun in their own living rooms often do not perform Berg Violin Concerto and, also if they do, it is not the money coming from that book that will make UE rich.

Reading a online score could help in knowing a composer you'd never heard of, or maybe checking some performance signs by somebody who cured the edition (it comes to me the example of Guilmant edition of old french music, with a lot of notes very interesting to know how to adapt Daquin to a Cavaille' Coll instrument according to XIX century taste).

Last but not least, as I have said in another thread, many of the scores claimed by UE are also published by Dover, and they are available in many shops, with the notice that the book cannot be sold in some countries due to copyright. I can go to another country and buy the book, and that's it.

I could then understand an "intelligent login", based on home address or on IP, which allows you to download something and prohibits you something else. This makes sense. "Since I am from France I cannot download this file": that's the law, my friend. And this would be a good approach.

Best regards.

Dietrich Buxtehude


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