IMSLP says " Public domain music can always be freely copied without royalties".
No, it is not as simple as that. Beyond copyright protection, all developped countries tend to protect the specific work put into making even a public domain score public. The jurisprudence on this is fluctuating - it used to be, in anglo-saxon law, the "sweat of the brow" doctrine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweat_of_the_brow
), but that has been abandonned, at least in the case of directories, with the Supreme Court stating that work and expense alone were not enough to grant protection. The famous Feist vs Rural Telephone Supreme Court ruling is in fact not directly applicable to the case of out-of-copyright scores, because there the point was to decide if "sweat of the brow" was enough to grant copyright protection to a publication which in itself did not display the required originality to make it the product of an "authorship"; with old scores we are talking about the extinction of the delays of copyright protection. But clearly courts are looking for some kind of balance between public domain and the protection of the economic efforts and interests put into making public out-of-copyright material. A book as been written about this, (http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Wrong-Copyi ... 0674743970
), which you can partly browse on Google: https://books.google.fr/books?id=_7O7CA ... er&f=false
French courts, for instance, will crack down strongly on "economic parasitism" and unfair competition, which is the fact for a competitor to take advantage, without authorization, of the efforts, investments and work of another seller in order to sell cheaper without incurring the expenses. Although nobody seems to know exactly what the legal basis of this is, even scores of out-of-copyright works published by established publishers are protected against photocopying and unauthorised reproduction - the moot point being whether it is based on copyright (the originality of the outlay of the notes on the paper, maybe even of the scanty Urtext indications) or on economic parasitism - and I'm not aware of any lawsuit on the matter that would have said how legal this is, and what the legal foundation of it would be. Now to this IMSLP may want to respond that, in the case mentioned by Gschladt, they haven't reproduced recent printed copies but old hand-written manuscripts. But still, clearly, what they did was to take advantage, without authorization, of the efforts, investments and work by the other organization to make these manuscripts available for free, so that seems to fit pretty well the French definition of "economic parasitism".
Also, in the example mentioned by Gschladt, those .pdf manuscripts were stolen from the institution, and ISLMP's resposting of them could be construed as "possession of stolen goods":
"Possession of stolen goods is a crime in which an individual has bought, been given, or acquired stolen goods some other way (other than they themselves having stolen them). In many jurisdictions, if an individual has accepted possession of goods or property and knew they were stolen, then the individual is typically charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the stolen goods." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possessio ... olen_goods
So IMSLP's claim that " Public domain music can always be freely copied without royalties" can be accepted only with strong provisos: what you could have done was use those .pdf manuscripts, made a transcription of them in modern print with Sibelius or any other similar software, and published that. That would have been, indeed, "freely copying" them with no royalties owed. It would still be a form of "exploitation of stolen goods", but you could always claim that you never had those .pdfs from the other instituton, that you went directly to the monasteries to copyy the manuscripts yourselves, or what not. Not very credible... (I bet the monasteries in questions have no record whatsoever of your visit), but could always be pleaded. But just re-posting the stolen .pdfs? That's pretty edgy.
Of course nobody will prosecute or sue for medieval manuscripts. The institution victim of the piracy probably doesn't have the money to so. Yes it IS ironic that ISMLP should complain for having had to shut down for months because it didn't have the money to defend itself against a frivolous suit, when it is actually taking advantage of the same situation from other institutions. This is a world where wolf eats wolf and grasshoper eats grasshoper.
It would be easy to just rejoice that those manuscripts, whatever their origin, are made public and available for free. I'm not so sure. That would be very short-term thiking. That kind of piracy has run out of business CD labels like Biddulph or Pearl (is Pearl still in business? I don't think so) or Tahra and others that speciaized in reissues of old 78s. So we were all happy at one point to find these recordings cheaper from the pirates... until the day nobody was left to issue them in the first place. It's Lion Kingdom under the rule of Scar. If we don't let the institutions that go through the trouble and expense of unearthing those old manuscripts make some profit out of it... nobody will unearth those old manuscripts any more and we'll all lose. I'm not comfortable with the fact that IMSLP should publish scores against the will of their possessors, as a result of robbery (and further brag about it), just as I am not comfortable with the fact that IMSLP should now be trying to monetize scores that were entrusted to it with the understanding tha they would be available for free. But there's a pattern, and it's not a good one.