The UK Music Publisher's Association Attacks The International Music Score Library Project

DMCA Notice on Website
DMCA Notice on Website

Once again we have proof of two points I’ve covered in the past:

  1. Notice and Takedown systems are open to abuse
  2. Using American Top Level Domains is dangerous

Let’s take them one at a time.

Notice And Takedown Systems Are Open To Abuse

The International Music Score Library Project site was taken down by an illegally filed Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice. How do I know this? Easy. I’m a musician, and I’ve used the site in the past. While I cannot claim to have viewed every piece of music on the site, I know the care that they use in selecting the works that are displayed.

If anything, they are overly cautious. There are probably works that should be displayed, they they aren’t displaying because of some minor concern. So the second I heard about this, my immediate response was ‘Bullshit‘. Hardly diplomatic. But them I’m not known for being diplomatic.

Second, the site is fully compliant with Canadian law. Quite frankly they would be better off using a .CA domain, to force anyone who wants to cause trouble to come to them on their home territory. You are always better off fighting at home.

Using American Top Level Domains Is Dangerous

American Copyright law is a horrible mess. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was supposedly about protecting artists, at least that is the story that was sold to the general public. It was also supposed to enact the 1995 WIPO Copyright Treaties. It didn’t.

Instead it was an attempt to protect a small number of large corporations. If you ask the smaller players, such as Producer/Director/Writer Ellen Seidler, she will tell you that it is no protection at all. If you read the SEC filings of the RIAA member companies, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that it was no protection for them either, since their sales dropped worse after it was enacted, than before.

The DMCA allows anyone to allege a Copyright Violation with no proof, and force a take down of the allegedly offending work. There is little recourse to false accusations. The way the law is written, the only safe option for the service provider is to take down the work in question immediately.

The work could be a completely original work, that the uploader created themselves. It doesn’t matter. The accuser has all of the rights. The uploader can file a counter-notice, and in ten days, the work (or website) can be placed back online. Just think. You can knock an entire website down for ten days by making a simple accusation.

The UK Music Publisher’s Association

And that’s what the UK Music Publisher’s Association did. By complaining about one score, directly to the Domain Name Registrar, which was an American Company, they got the entire website taken down. I’m not blaming Go Daddy. By law, they had no choice. They pulled the registration of International Music Score Library Project’s .ORG site from the registry.

All for one score out of thousands.

At this point the word started to spread, via Twitter, Status.Net, Blog Post, IRC, and probably Carrier Pigeon. I don’t know all of the details, but it looks like someone at the UK Music Publisher’s Association realized that they had a major public relations disaster on their hands. Getting a score pulled is one thing. Knocking an entire library with 90,000 scores off line is another.

As of 10:00 PM Eastern Time, the International Music Score Library Project is back online. It was never fully off line of course. It was always accessible from the alternative or domains.

The MPA did issue a statement on Twitter, which said:

MPA will seek to work with @IMSLP to ensure that all scores made available comply with relevant copyright legislation.

I sent them an inquiry via Twitter asking:

@the_MPA @IMSLP Re your statement – you’ll be working with @IMSLP to make sure they are compliant with CANADIAN copyright law? Need Quote.

Note that I expect them to react to my request about the same way you’d react if you found a barrel of toxic waste in your front room.

Anyway, the lesson is clear. Don’t host in the USA, unless you live there. Don’t use an American Top Level Domain unless you live there. Even then, be careful. American laws regarding Copyright, and for that matter Free Speech and the Internet aren’t safe. Americans would be better off hosting somewhere like Iceland, once Iceland gets their new Freedom of Speech laws finalized.


Wayne Borean

Thursday April 21, 2011


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