Copyright complaint leads to public domain music library takedown

By EDRi · May 4, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Urheberrechtsbeschwerde: Musikbibliothek offline |]

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), the largest public domain
music library on the Internet, has been recently taken offline following a
complaint from the UK’s Music Publishers Association which convinced
registrar GoDaddy to takedown their website.

The action was brought over a single 90 year-old classical piece by
Rachmaninoff. The UK’s Music Publishers Association (MPA) issued a DMCA
(Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown notice, not to the IMSLP site,
but to their domain registrar, GoDaddy: “We understand that
Godaddy are the sponsoring registrar for the website
which makes available unlicensed copyright protected sheet music notation
which is an infringement of copyright. By assisting this website, Godaddy
are liable to pay damages for secondary copyright infringement once notice
of the infringement has been given,” said the MPA’s notice.

GoDaddy complied right away, seizing IMSLP’s domain name and thus taking
them completely offline.

IMSLP reacted immediately, stating that GoDaddy did not first notify the
owner before seizing the domain and explaining why MPA’s request was
unsubstantiated. Additionally, its assertion that the work under question
was under US copyright was a lie. IMSLP explained that Rachmaninoff’s work
The Bells, Op.35 was a work which “is definitely NOT under copyright in the
USA. It was published in 1920 in full score, parts and vocal score by A.
Gutheil, by then a division of Serge Koussevitzky’s Edition Russe de
Musique, headquarted at the time in Berlin, with branch offices in Moscow
and Paris.
As both the composer and the author of the Russian-language translation of
Edgar Allan Poe’s public domain text were Russian nationals (who had fled
the Revolutionary government), the work was quite ineligible for protection
under US law and was actually public domain there the minute the first copy
was either sold, rented or offered for sale or rent under the author’s

“There are approximately 180 different laws in force worldwide at present.
It is simply not possible for anyone – not even a major commercial concern
like Amazon – to keep daily track of 180 or more different copyright laws,
each with different exemptions for fair use and other purposes, etc. – many
of which are also frequently subject to changes, from either legislative
amendments or judicial interpretations”, explained the site.

Following IMSLP’s reaction and threat to sue, MPA withdrew their complaint
from GoDaddy. “While IMSLP encourages open discussion of copyright issues,
we have zero tolerance for underhanded tactics. To MPA’s credit, they have
voluntarily retracted their claim. IMSLP will also be working on technical
measures to prevent any future attacks,” stated IMSLP representatives.

This time the conflict was solved quite rapidly. In 2007, Universal Edition,
an Austrian music publisher, forced a shut down of the site and it took
IMSPL 9 months of reorganization to recover.

Publishers Force Domain Seizure of Public Domain Music Resource (22.04.2011)

IMSLP, Copyright & the MPA (UK)(23.04.2011)

Public Domain Website Forced Offline Over Copyright Complaint (21.04.2011)