The composers know it, the publishers know it, the general public, teachers and performers know it. Most musicians have been guilty of it at some stage and it has been that way for as long as photocopiers have been a standard fixture in every school, office and now, home.
In the digital age, music copyright has become harder for owners to control with everyone having access to copiers and scanners, tablets, computers and the internet. A quick Google search for any popular piece of music will bring up at least half a dozen sites from which you can download a free copy or transcription of the work.
It might not be the right thing to do, but it’s a reality that publishers have to start tackling meaningfully and without resorting to the dogma of the past. Audio has been revolutionised by iTunes and iPods – the time is coming for sheet music to follow the same path.
Having recently been to a copyright seminar for music teachers run by APRA/AMCOS, Australia’s peak royalty collection agency (check out my article, Music Copyright for Teachers), I was disheartened to find out how the law is still well behind reality when it comes to digital copyright. For example, using scans of music you own on a iPad, for example, is illegal; digitally sharing music for your band or choir to use is still illegal without the required ratio of hard copies.
With that in mind, I was excited the read an article from mustech.net today entitled: The Future of Band Music Publishing. In it, they explain how Bandworks Publications in the US is now selling PDF copies of music that you may photocopy as many times as you require – perfect for band directors:
You can purchase a typical paper arrangement from them at competitive prices, but you can also purchase PDF versions at reduced prices. Why is that so special? Because the PDF parts you purchase are unlocked, and allow you to print out and photocopy as many copies as you’d like.
You can download PDFs of music directly from their website (they also sell bound hard copies for conductors) removing the need to buy and store boxes of music for your ensembles. It’s great to see a publisher that is facing reality and accepting where music distribution is heading. Make sure you read the article to get the owner’s perspective.
I also recently found out that the Brussels Philharmonic is now using tablets instead of sheet music for their performers. You can watch a video about it from the BBC: Brussels Philharmonic replaces sheet music with tablets. While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea just yet, I have a feeling it is the way things are headed, especially now that many more schools in Victoria are introducing iPads for their students from 2013.
Let’s hope that the big publishers and collection agencies start to catch on!