[LINK] Ars: 'Musopen raises $40, 000 to set classical music "free"'

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Tue Sep 14 13:02:29 EST 2010

  Picking over a detail...

On 14/09/10 11:54 AM, Roger Clarke wrote:
> ['Setting music free' is an attractive catch-phrase, because it's
> short.  But it's misleading.
> [Copyright in the sheet-music in question has already expired.  But
> copyright automatically subsists in performances and recordings of it.
Not quite ... the copyright over (say) a Beethoven *manuscript* has 
already expired, as it has over many versions of the sheet music. But a 
new *edition* - say, a musicologist returning to the original 
manuscripts and correcting errors, revising or modernising marks and 
presentation, improving the pagination to make the work easier to 
perform, etc - is copyright to the person creating the new edition.

Or at least, that's how I understand it!

> [Where copyright applies to a work, the 'public domain' notion is
> problematical, and best avoided.  (Aaron Funn should read the
> literature surrounding Creative Commons, and FSF for that matter).
> [What Aaron's really doing (which is a great idea) is using donations
> to pay for recordings of performances, and then making them available
> under a liberal copyright licence.]
> Musopen raises $40,000 to set classical music "free"
> http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/09/musopen-raising-40000-to-set-classical-music-free.ars
> A radio host recently "referred to me as a Communist," says Musopen's
> Aaron Dunn. Music professors berate him by e-mail because his project
> is "like Napster." Dunn's crime? Setting music free.
> [Radio hosts we know about.  Are there really "music professors" who
> are that ignorant about copyright law?   Okay, in the US, 'professor'
> means Lecturer and above;  and in German-speaking countries it can
> mean secondary-school teacher.  But even so ...]
> In fact, though, Dunn's version of "freedom" looks little like
> Napster. Instead of distributing a recording without permission, Dunn
> raises money, hires orchestras to record terrific classical music ("I
> was a bassoon student," he says) that has fallen into the public
> domain, and then makes those recordings available to anyone, for any
> reason.
> Those reasons might include using Beethoven's "Für Elise" in an indie
> film-indie filmmakers being some of Musopen's heaviest users-but Dunn
> has heard from shows like Mythbusters who also needed a bit of
> classical music for a segment. Wikipedia uses Musopen music to
> illustrate its entries on classical music.
> People are willing to fund the idea. "Someone offered me $1,000
> yesterday and asked how much Smetana I could record," Dunn told me,
> but funding for the part-time project has been sporadic to date.
> To drum up the excitement and donor base needed to give Musopen
> ongoing life, Dunn put the project on Kickstarter, seeking $11,000 to
> "hire an internationally renowned orchestra to record and release the
> rights to: the Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky
> symphonies. We have price quotes from several orchestras and are
> ready to hire one, pending the funds." The project had a goal, a
> deadline, and a sense of urgency, all elements that Musopen's
> fundraising has lacked in the past.
> With one day left to go, the Kickstarter projected has now secured
> more than $41,000, much of it after recently being featured on
> Slashdot. Intoxicated with the support and the promise of cash, Dunn
> has big dreams. He could hire a "brand-name" orchestra like the
> London Philharmonic, for instance. Sure, it would burn up all of the
> money and only generate a single symphony, but what a symphony it
> would be.
> The other main alternative is to look "east"-Eastern Europe boasts
> tremendous orchestras that will record for a fraction of the price
> charged by their big-name Western counterparts. Hiring Prague's
> terrific philharmonic would cost only $10,000 to $15,000, for
> instance, but the recording wouldn't give Musopen the same cachet and
> publicity-both important considerations as Dunn tries to turn his
> baby into a truly sustainable organization.
> And, as Dunn is learning, when you raise money socially, your donors
> have... strong ideas, and they can be quite vocal in expressing them.
> The donors will soon get to vote on how the money should be
> allocated, with Dunn planning a blind orchestral listening test to
> help people decide.
> This is significant step up for Musopen. When we first profiled the
> site back in 2008, most of its recordings came from groups like the
> Davis High School Symphony Orchestra and Oldham Music Centre Youth
> Wind Band-fine institutions, but not quite the same as a big
> professional orchestra. Now Dunn is entertaining the idea of using
> the London Philharmonic, even as he ponders his many other projects:
> an open-source music theory textbook is in the work, for instance.
> He has heard from musicians skeptical about Musopen. If it takes off,
> they fear that Musopen will harm the market for orchestral recordings
> and licensing, a key source of revenue for cash-strapped orchestras.
> But Dunn isn't out to make life more difficult for musicians, and he
> argues that "Glen Gould will always be the default" when it comes to
> Bach's Goldberg Variations, for instances. As for their
> bread-and-butter, live performances, Dunn hopes that more accessible
> music will lead to more interest in live concerts.
> Besides, any pain that such a model causes must be set next to the
> huge upside for consumers, indie filmmakers, libraries, and
> universities: free access to high-quality recordings of some of the
> West's best music.
> Dunn's highest hope now is that he might improbably raise more than
> $50,000-five times the hoped-for amount-by the time his Kickstarter
> project closes.

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