Canadian Public Domain Not Good Enough For German Publisher

from the this-is-not-the-public-domain-you-were-looking-for dept

It's no secret that different countries have different lengths for copyright. That's why there are constant debates over copyright extension, as countries with shorter terms for copyright are pressured by those with longer terms to extend (or, better yet, to leapfrog) copyright terms. Otherwise, you end up with the situation where content in one country is in the public domain, while it's still under copyright elsewhere. In the age of the internet, where borders are somewhat meaningless online, that's going to cause some problems. Witness the situation with the International Music Score Library Project, a wiki-based project in Canada, for publishing public domain music scores online. The site was careful about copyright, making sure that the only content published was in the public domain. Since the site is based in Canada, it focused on Canadian copyright law and what was in the public domain in that country. Apparently, that was seen as problematic to a German publisher, Universal Edition AG, who found that some of the musical scores that are in the public domain in Canada are still under copyright in Germany. Universal Edition then hired a Toronto law firm to send a cease and desist letter, that caused the entire site to be taken down. Yes, even though all of the content was perfectly legal under Canadian law, this German publisher was able to get it taken offline because some of the content was still under copyright in Europe. If this type of thing is allowed to stand, then we reach a point where all copyright online automatically is covered by the absolute most draconian and stringent levels of copyright law, no matter what the law is anywhere else. That doesn't seem either reasonable or fair.

Filed Under: canada, copyright, copyright extension, eu, international music score library project, public domain
Companies: universal edition ag


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  1. identicon
    darkbhudda, 22 Oct 2007 @ 6:29pm


    Imagine this scenario: A Canadian publisher prints, on paper, scores that are in the Canadian public domain, and then distributes the scores for free in a country where the score is not in public domain. The publisher would be violating copyright laws in this case. (Also, the publisher would be violating the Customs law for not declaring commercial goods brought in.)


    Actually the scenario is more like:
    A German gets on a plane and flies to Canada, walks into a public library, removes a book of public domain scores that is under a glass case with clear labels of copyright laws of other countries, photocopies the book then gets on a plane and returns to Germany. Then a German publisher sends a cease and decease letter to the Canadian library for not banning Germans.

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