Armstrong Gibbs Society

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Armstrong Gibbs Society

Postby gibarian » Sat Feb 19, 2011 5:09 am

I've contributed nearly a hundred scores to IMSLP. I wrote the following note to the Armstrong Gibbs society ( I hope I haven't exceeded any authority, but I think the note is case any inquiries go the way of the site's administrators.

Dear Ms. Aries:

I volunteer my time with the International Score Music Library Project's ( Petrucci Music Library. The goal of the library is to create a large internet-based free library of public domain sheet music. Currently, the library hosts 85,000 scores, of which 35,000 also have parts.

The music of Armstrong Gibbs will pass into the public domain in Canada (where IMSLP's servers are located) this May. His music will also enter the public domain in Japan and China. The music will remain under copyright in the EU (except Portugal), Australia, and Russia for an additional 20 years. In the US, works published before 1923 are already in the public domain, but IMSLP will be able to serve scores published before 1923 to US users.

As your society seeks to promote the music of Armstrong Gibbs, I ask you to consider working with IMSLP to make his music widely and easily available. The internet is an excellent medium to provide access to low-demand and out-of-print works as well as to unique material (such as manuscript facsimiles). IMSLP also hosts copyrighted scores issued under a creative commons license.

Information on how to contribute material may be found on the imslp website.

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Re: Armstrong Gibbs Society

Postby pml » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:35 am

Unless the Society has direct control for rights over the musical property of the composer, I think it is very unlikely they will be either able or willing to comply with the request, as they are based in the UK where Gibbs’ œuvre will remain protected under copyright laws for another 20 years. In common with many deceased composers he may have had the rights for his compositions signed across to publishers that collect any revenues from sale of his music (probably not a huge financial concern) and distribute royalties to Gibbs’ estate.

In such cases, organisations such as the Society are basically functioning in an advisory capacity to help promote performance of the works of their house composer: they have influence, but that is about all. The Society would be sacrificing their relationship with the rights holders and the composer’s estate if they assisted in making it possible for widespread copyright infringement in the UK – unless Gibbs has a large following outside his native land, then presumably the majority of downloads would be in the UK and thus in breach of copyright there.

For example, a couple of years ago I made a request to a similar composer’s society to allow several small works to be made freely available (and recently had the chance to reiterate the request personally with the chairman, who happened to be in Australia last December) and in each case was politely but firmly turned down. Basically, although the publisher acts on the advice of the composer’s estate, in practice the publisher has full discretionary rights to do whatever they wish to promote the composers in “their stable”.

Now if Gibbs were viewed as a sort of “national treasure” (e.g. like Mozart in Austria, or Nielsen in Denmark) then the publishers might feel well enough supported or remunerated to put those works on the web more or less for free. At best, all things being equal, I’d hope the Society can negotiate a few sample works for you to host on IMSLP, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Regards, Philip
PML (talk)

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