IMSLP:Open Letter (Reopening)

Free public domain sheet music from IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library
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Open Letter

29 June 2008

Dear Friends of IMSLP, Former Users, Contributors and Supporters:

Some people have doubted that we would keep our word. Some people have questioned our competence. Some people have sworn, despite being sympathetic, that IMSLP was struck down once and forever.

I am here to prove them wrong.

It is with great joy that I bring you news of the resurrection of IMSLP. We continue to believe that the access to our culture and the Arts is a fundamental right of every human being. And holding this belief, we continue in our journey towards the goals of providing public access to the musical public domain, and the facilitation of the study of music, the understanding of music, and the enjoyment of music.

And in this spirit of openness and accessibility, I here officially dedicate the IMSLP to Ottaviano Petrucci, a pioneer whose achievements made music so much more accessible to musicians and music lovers for the past six centuries. IMSLP will henceforth be known as both IMSLP and the Petrucci Music Library. The domain name petruccimusiclibrary.org will soon (in the next few days) redirect to imslp.org.

* * *

Before I go into all the details that are involved in this resurrection, I would like to give proper thanks to several people and organizations that made today possible.

Obviously, this resurrection would be impossible without proper legal support, and I would like to thank the folks at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and the Stanford Fair Use Project (FUP) for providing crucial support during times of crisis, and Professors Michael Geist and Lawrence Lessig for recommending the IMSLP case to the two legal clinics. Even though IMSLP currently has other avenues of legal support, the support of the two clinics proved a godsend for both IMSLP and myself personally.

In addition, I would like to thank Project Gutenberg leader Michael Hart, and GNU project leader Richard M. Stallman. Mr.Stallman has continuously helped IMSLP, even during the darkest periods and despite what must be a frighteningly busy schedule, and for which I am extremely grateful. I am also very sorry that no deal was reached between Project Gutenberg and IMSLP, but I believe that the current outcome is the best for both parties. I will, however, be very interested in pursuing a mirroring agreement, where Project Gutenberg will have access to the entirety of the IMSLP site, and which should prove very useful in case of an emergency of any sort.

I would also like to thank all the IMSLP contributors whose work was indispensable for the resurrection of the IMSLP, which included a thorough copyright review of all 16,000+ files. I greatly look forward to working with you in the future, towards our common goal.

Last, but very certainly not least, I would like to thank everyone who supported IMSLP in some form or another. You have let your voices heard, and we have answered. IMSLP will continue.


To publishers:

I am very appreciative of the amount of support given to the IMSLP by the users and contributors of the IMSLP, which could be seen directly in the volume of e-mails I received after the shutdown of the IMSLP. But a misconception of our stance seems to have arisen. IMSLP is, by no means, an antithesis of the music publishing industry. Rather, I see the goals of both music publishers and the IMSLP to be in many ways the same: both are interested in the promotion and dissemination of music.

Due to this shared interest, IMSLP is very willing to collaborate with music publishers in the promotion of new music, under a Creative Commons or similar license. I know full well how little of the overall profits come from selling actual scores (and I have no evidence that IMSLP affects those profits to any great extent, if at all), and how much comes from royalties from performances. Would it not make much more sense to use IMSLP to promote new composers, instead of attempting to sue IMSLP for composers who will be entering the public domain all over the world very soon, if not already? Considering the fact that IMSLP contributors and users are made up mainly of musicians and music lovers, isn't IMSLP precisely the audience that music publishers should be working with?

I am heartened by the fact that, indeed, many music publishers have seen IMSLP as a friend, and have indeed used IMSLP in the promotion of their contemporary composers. Perhaps ironically, IMSLP's resurrection is due in no small part to the help of several of these publishers.

However, permit me to make one point clear here in no uncertain terms. IMSLP will continue to oppose organizations who attempt to limit and restrict the already much-shrunken public domain. A primary goal of IMSLP is to facilitate public access to the musical public domain, and thus IMSLP will resist strongly any attempts to shrink the public domain, and will raise the alarm among the general public should there be such an assault upon the world's cultural heritage. The reorganized IMSLP will not be so easily silenced.

But let us not end on such a distasteful note. One member of the publishing industry with whom I have recently corresponded expressed the opinion that the classical music world is too small to fight amongst ourselves. I wholeheartedly agree.


To IMSLP users and supporters:

As you probably have noticed after a quick walk through the site, many things have changed. I have tried to make everything as intuitive as possible, but I do welcome all discussions and questions about new or preexisting features. Official documentation for some of IMSLP's new features is still in progress, but do feel free to seek help on the forums for questions, or simply to leave comments and suggestions for improving the usability of the IMSLP.

And some of you may have noticed the opening of the International Music Database Project (IMDBP). IMDBP is an offspring of IMSLP that is still very much a work in progress (just started I might add), and you can find more information about the goals and time line of the project on the IMDBP main page. There is no major change in the submission process for IMSLP due to the creation of the IMDBP, besides having to click on one extra link, so former IMSLP contributors should find the new system fairly intuitive. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think the submission system can be improved in some way; this is one of the high priorities on my list.

There are also discussions of major collaborations between other organizations and IMSLP underway. More news on the specifics of a discussion will be posted as soon as the plan is solidified, and both the other organization and IMSLP are ready to make the discussion public.

I have started a backup system for anyone wanting to keep a portion of IMSLP usable offline. A significant amount of files will be available via this system, and anyone interested should take a look at the corresponding page. Due to a variety of concerns including privacy, we are not able to offer public backups of the text on the wiki at this time, but, as I mentioned near the beginning of this letter, we would be very willing to have a mirroring/backup plan with Project Gutenberg, which would include the text.

I have also noticed people asking how they could donate to IMSLP. I have set up a page explaining the ways to donate to IMSLP; some even without actually donating money, though money donations are obviously welcome.

The forum is still where it was before the shutdown, and a blog is well in planning. If someone is feeling generous and is willing to donate a chunk of a server for a Moveable Type blog (Perl based), I would be very grateful.

* * *

Welcome back everyone, and by all means, enjoy your stay!

Yours,
Edward W. Guo (a.k.a. Feldmahler)
Project leader
Contact: feldmahler {at} imslp.org, or leave a message on my talk page.

P.S. This open letter, like the first open letter, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Please do feel free to translate this letter, and post the translation on this wiki or the forums, so that an IMSLP admin can integrate the translation into this page.
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