Announcing: The Public Domain Song Anthology

from the the-public-domain-is-good. dept

When we learned about this project a couple of years ago we promised Bob Schwartz we'd run a plug for it when the time is right. Today is Jazz Appreciation Day and the crowdfunding has begun, so the time is now right. Here is Bob’s plug:

You realize something needs to be done and you are the only one crazy enough to do it. This happened when my law and music worlds collided: A D.C. restaurant stopped booking live music due to license demands from a Performance Rights Organization. I suggested that bands could play "originals," and play from a book of Public Domain popular music – but no such book exists – even though as of Jan. 1, 2019 more music is entering the Public Domain.

I realized I knew the very best music, law, and library people to create such a book, of 370 songs, and to give it away – in text and musical notation software, free for creative use and adaptation – as an Open Educational Resource. And to add up to 50 more "1924" tunes next Jan. 1. But this would mean raising all the money in advance to pay the curator / arrangers, who have agreed they would not claim any purported (and dubious) rights in their research, notation, harmonization, notes, or formatting, or in the compilation itself. If any such rights exist they will be licensed cc-0.

I'm happy and relieved to report that the Public Domain Song Anthology will be acquired and sponsored by The Music Library Association (MLA), Peabody Institute (Johns Hopkins), the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia.

These university libraries and other MLA members have raised their share of the necessary funds, including for the publication of a print volume for subscribing libraries and donors. The rest, according to plan, must come from a public-facing crowd-funding campaign. Mike and Techdirt, who have their own share of worthy causes, have generously agreed to let me include this link to the Indiegogo page for completion of this project, which includes avenues for corporate or foundation sponsorship. For other means, including donor-advised support, contact me or MLA's Open Access Editor Kathleen DeLaurenti. Thanks.

Filed Under: anthology, copyright, jazz, music, public domain, public domain song anthology, public performance


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  1. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 3:33pm

    Overly officious, self important, unhearing, asswipes

    "...A D.C. restaurant stopped booking live music due to license demands from a Performance Rights Organization."

    I am wondering what Performance Rights Organizations would do if a restaurant booked live entertainment that ONLY used music from this book. Nothing good, I suspect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2019 @ 4:45pm

    How about they create an anthology of music written by assholes that think they deserve money for performances of their music in a bar or restaurant? I bet it would fit on a leaflet as there aren't that many asshole bands out there. Maybe Taylor Swift and Metallica.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Gary (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 4:47pm

    Re: Overly officious, self important, unhearing, asswipes

    Well the Performance Rights Organizations have gone after performers who only used public domain works so....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 4:50pm

    They would likely demand money for the possibility that music covered by their licenses could be played. Well, that, or try to have public domain music re-recorded so they can claim a copyright on it or something scummy like that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 5:24pm

    Great idea, but...

    I'd give it a week, maybe a month before any restaurant/musician playing music from this is send a shakedown letter, 'just in case' the music might be covered or someone plays a song that is still under copyright. Can't be too careful a parasite when the opportunity for easy profit is on the line after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2019 @ 6:06pm

    Re:

    The problem isn't the musicians. It's the PROs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Re:

    What do prostitutes have to do wi—oh wait that was an abbreviation. My bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2019 @ 7:09pm

    I realized long after I left school that the "classics" they had us read were all public-domain works.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2019 @ 7:17pm

    Bars and restaurants are no place for intelligent people.

    The normal hostility amplified by the internet era, combined with overpricing and a big waste of time makes them loser venues. Also if you're a "winner" your loser waiter will probably spit or piss in your food and drink. Abuses of power should always be presumed. Look at how nasty people are on this site. You want them handling your drinks and talking about you behind your back then using your personal info to rob you? Be their guest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 7:25pm

    Re:

    You forget that restaurants are killing home cooking, due to that something they deliver that home cooking doesn't seem to. Oh, and entertainment that isn't 'on the tube'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2019 @ 7:48pm

    Re: probably don’t get invited to any

    You sound like a real fun person at parties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 8:59pm

    restaurants are no place for intelligent people

    Donald Trump regularly eats food from McDonald’s, so I guess you have a point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Frank Cox, 30 Apr 2019 @ 9:09pm

    Most musicians today use PDF's on tablets for performing. A printed copy of this book is far less useful than a PDF.

    I threw out all of my printed sheet music some time ago. I have my whole library on my tablet and my piano looks ever so much neater without all of that paper junking it up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    sumgai (profile), 30 Apr 2019 @ 10:04pm

    First Thing I'd've Said...

    Ya gotta love the fear factor, engendered by this, our very own police state. Let some jerk even intimate that he has the power to bust one's nannies, and just watch the "victim" bow down faster than any one of Trump's lackies.

    If I'd been the restaurant owner, the first thing I'd've said would've been "show me the paperwork. I wanna know that you cover absolutely all musicians, and absolutely all of their works, in perpetuity. Elsewise, I'm gonna give you this here free mallet, and you can go pound sand."

    Reminds me of the "other" Nigerian problem, where they have more PROs than they do home-grown musicians.

    ....

    in re: The Topic At Hand (helping fund the project);

    I'd love to visit and perhaps cough up dough to help out, but that linked site seems to know more than I do about how to browse the web. IE11 is still being distributed today by Microsoft, so I'm not sure why any business would turn people away for using what comes with Windows.

    (And a special note for all you ABMers: Yer preachin' to the choir, so don't bother. Besides, my quibble isn't with your mistaken belief that you know more than myself about personal security, it's with websites that mistakenly think they know more than their users about personal security.)

    sumgai

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    PaulT (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 1:02am

    Re:

    Weird. I knew this would be the regularly scheduled thread for you to pointlessly attack real artists, but I didn't know restaurants would be your target as well. What's the matter - did you get kicked out again because whatever mental disease you manifest here also appears in real life? If so, my condolences and I hope you start taking whatever medication you so desperately need.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2019 @ 1:40am

    Re:

    I call bullshit, good sir. I definitively prefer paper music to a tablet myself, and most musicians I know also use paper music. Paper works better. If you need to write something on it you don't need a PDF editor, you're not constrained by screen size...

    Eh, anyway. I imagine there might be a PDF edition. You could even make one! It's public domain!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 6:23am

    If I'd been the restaurant owner, the first thing I'd've said would've been "show me the paperwork. I wanna know that you cover absolutely all musicians, and absolutely all of their works, in perpetuity. Elsewise, I'm gonna give you this here free mallet, and you can go pound sand."

    And that would be all well and good up until you get served with a lawsuit that you could not realistically fight due to a lack of time/money (a problem the PRO will not have). At that point, you will have two choices: Bankrupt yourself and your business to fight a lawsuit you might win at some distant point in the future, or bow to the will of the PRO so you can stay in business.

    Yes, it is something of an extortion racket. Yes, it is complete bullshit. Knowing those things will not change the reality of the situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Gary (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 6:27am

    Re:

    Bars and restaurants are no place for intelligent people.

    The normal hostility amplified by the internet era, combined with overpricing and a big waste of time makes them loser venues. Also if you're a "winner" your loser waiter will probably spit or piss in your food and drink. Abuses of power should always be presumed. Look at how nasty people are on this site. You want them handling your drinks and talking about you behind your back then using your personal info to rob you? Be their guest.

    So you are a paranoid shut-in, afraid to go out in public because the masses will hate you for your greatness.

    So you come here, hiding behind the AC, to prove your great wealth and intelligence to the unworthy people you hate.

    Please take your meds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2019 @ 6:31am

    Re: First Thing I'd've Said...

    There are at least two PRO's in the US, ASCAP and BMI (if I remember correctly), and opposing them seems like a waste of money, as I have never heard of anyone winning against them. You pay the lawyers and then you pay them. The difference here would be if all music from a certain establishment was from this collection (all public domain) there would be an argument for the court (which is certainly where you would wind up). An expensive argument, and one that you should win, but still expensive. Then there, of course, is the question of whether this course of music would attract/satisfy the clientele.

    Now if a group of restaurants, let's say geographically diverse, got together to fund that lawsuit/defense (depending on who sues), then it might be economically feasible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Kathleen DeLaurenti, 1 May 2019 @ 7:27am

    Re:

    We are making all formats available of the publication; print will be limited to folks who pledge at the $100 level an above. We thought a lot about doing a digital-only edition, but had demand for print. In addition to a PDF that can be edited with any notation software that reads MusicXML, we'll also be making the original Sibleius sheets (which can be read with NVDA software for those with a screen reader) available as well!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Bob Schwartz, 1 May 2019 @ 10:21am

    Trolls are now a fact of life & some PD issues can be tricky but this has been researched several times over. One point of the Book was to show the PRO agent the authority that it's PD -- if they can't read music good luck to them. Since not every band wants to play this music, a larger goal was to make the music available for educational use so it won't be FORGOTTEN -- PD status in music is not as helpful as in literature, all for reasons we've encountered in developing this Book. Read the Indiegogo page. For those who want paper: yes. For those who want digital: Will be XML, Sibelius, and in PDF as a single book or a la carte. And if an issue arises we expect no shortage of pro brono legal assistance to this project.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 3:28pm

    Re:

    No likely about it. That is the tax on blank storage media

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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