Noting the shut down of IMSLP

I’ve referenced the International Music Score Library Project several times on this site, and was troubled when it shut down last month in response to a cease and desist letter. The letter from a law firm representing Austrian publisher Universal Edition insisted that IMSLP, a Canadian organization on Canadian servers, had to block access to Europeans of material still in copyright there.

However, much like the temporary shut down of The Lied and Art Song Texts Page under similar circumstances a few years ago, I think the utter shut down of the site was a little bit of an overreaction. I’m particularly disappointed that the owner of IMSLP didn’t take Michael Hart up on his offer to temporarily host all the US-legal stuff on Project Gutenberg’s servers.

Curiously, both sites are based in Canada, and I don’t know how much bearing Canadian law has on their viability. I’m relieved to know that Project Gutenberg, backed by a small army of volunteer lawyers, has maintained a firm line in the sand regarding such issues. They have stringent rules by which they determine what they can host, but they have successfully beaten back the IP bullies who have tried to prevent them from serving public domain materials that may still be in copyright in other countries.

Fortunately, I follow PG’s rules in considering what I can put on this website. I’m glad to know that if I were served with a similar letter, I would have a host of precedent to protect me, as well as supportive organizations like PG and the Internet Archive prepared to offer me cover.

Finally, while I had some reservations about some of the ways IMSLP pushed the envelope of legality, as well as concerns about quality control, I do hope the majority of that site will quickly find its way back online. I’d especially like to avoid having to scan the complete songs of Schubert myself, since they had apparently already done so!