UK Music Publishers Take Down Canadian Sheet Music Site

The UK Music Publishers Association has succeeded in taking down the International Music Score Library Project, an enormously popular Canadian-based sheet music site that has posted thousands of public domain scores. The site has faced legal threats from European publishers in the past and worked hard to ensure that all posted scores are compliant with Canadian copyright rules. The term of Canadian copyright law is life of the author plus an additional 50 years, a term compliant with international copyright law. I wrote about the site in 2007.

The UK Music Publishers Association filed a DMCA takedown notification with GoDaddy, IMSLP’s domain name registrar, which has frozen the site for at least ten days. IMSLP has posted more information about the claim and why it is unfounded.  The case highlights yet again why demands for a notice-and-takedown approach in Bill C-32 were wisely rejected by the Conservatives since that system can lead to outcomes that shut down sites based on unproven allegations. The better approach – as found in C-32 – was a notice-and-notice approach that provides an effective deterrent while leaving it to the courts to determine actual cases of infringement.

Update: The UK Music Publishers Association appears to have acknowledged it was wrong to file the takedown.



  1. Now can they sue for damages?
    Interesting downtime cost calculator:

    But seriously, why not; there should be punitive damages for filing a takedown inappropriately.

    Also, sheet music? seriously? i thought the sheetmusic copying concerns subsided almost 100 years ago…

  2. John Grimes says:

    Canadian eh?
    Copyright issues aside, why is a Canadian firm/site registering its domains through a US company (with a less than stellar reputation), and likely hosting its site in the US where it becomes subject to all the vagaries of US law?

    This likely wouldn’t have happened with a Canadian registered domain and Canadian hosted site.

    And if the response is “they’re cheaper in the US; ask if the costs and publicity of being “taken down” and being offline are worth the “cheaper” fees.

  3. The boycott list grows
    I play Romantic/Baroque Era music on the piano, so I’m in a position to occasionally buy sheet music. However, the UK and European sheet music publishers have successfully convinced me to avoid buying their products by trying to stifle the public domain. It’s absolute hypocrisy to try to claim legal protections and then undermine the availability of public domain works at the same time.

  4. Maupassant says:

    So a publishers’ rights assoc. in the UK gets a takedown of a sight in Canada– using a law that doesn’t exist in either country. That’s just wonderful, coming on top of the non-judicial ICE domain seizures of legal Spanish sites. The fact that the domain name system is essentially rooted in the US has become an urgent problem for the world. We must transition to a distributed replacement as soon as possible. Chances are, though, that the internet will wind up partitioned on name systems.

  5. Sheet music in the public domain belongs to us all. Do not pay a dime for it. If you want to give your money away, donate to a worthy charity instead.
    “I play Romantic/Baroque Era music on the piano, so I’m in a position to occasionally buy sheet music.”

    Why would you be in a position to occasionally buy sheet music? If you are playing stuff from the baroque and romantic periods (especially if you are playing stuff from the Baroque period), the vast majority of well-known works are in the public domain and freely accessible in beautiful pdf files via IMSLP. I am also a pianist specialising works from the romantic period. The last time I bought anything from the Royal conservatory of music or some other such organisation which profits from work which belongs to all of us, was about 17 years ago when I was 4 feet tall and didn’t know any better. At that time I didn’t understand that I was paying the Royal Conservatory of Music for work which they didn’t even help produce, and which had been in the public domain for decades, even centuries.

    Since finding out about IMSLP, it has become my primary source for all my sheet music needs. It’s my only source really, they have just about every piece of classical music I’ve ever really wanted to play on the piano. Every piece on top of my piano right now is from there, except 50 year old music books I inherited and haven’t given away yet. Wish more people knew about it. Maybe this bit of publicity will help somewhat.

  6. Why GoDaddy?
    Yes, why GoDaddy? Is there no Canadian company with comparable service? Is .org totally American and is only .ca truly DMCA-avoidable?

  7. And here I thought the protectors of copyright were infallible.

  8. Nauru, IMSLP’s editions sometimes are nowhere near the quality of non-free ones (Sibelius’ piano works, for instance). I’m surprised you’ve managed to go for this long without buying a single one.

  9. money
    unwritten: why is there is no Canadian company with comparable service? Because they are way overpriced and or very difficult to get a hold of for support.

  10. BarbarianCrypto says:

    GoDaddy was largely dumber for not attempting to verify whether or not an infringement had even taken place.

    “Dear , is infringing by retransmitting a the current comment/post that I submitted to them. When submitting the post, I did not give consent to to post it publicly for other people to download and store in their browser caches. Please shut down the domain.

    Thank you”

  11. @statsone said:
    unwritten: why is there is no Canadian company with comparable service? Because they are way overpriced and or very difficult to get a hold of for support.

    Don’t know what you’re talking about but there are plenty of “everything and the world for $5” hosts in Canada as well as properly managed hosts like and tons of others. If you only plan on paying nothing for Unlimited everything hosting you get what you pay for.

  12. They use GoDaddy?
    They deserved it!

    Use offshore servers (Canadians are WAYYYY too overpriced)

  13. end user:
    check their pricing for a dedicated server. Expensive

  14. Sue them all
    Given that UK Music Publishers Association and GoDaddy were responsible for a business outage they should both be sued (in Canada) for damages. There will be much finger pointing and blame but damage was done and someone should answer for it.

  15. @statsone said: end user:
    check their pricing for a dedicated server. Expensive

    Huh? Netelligent has servers starting from $80 CDN per month and those are located in Montreal. So you’d rather cheap out on the price then have a proper set up? You get what you pay for.

  16. I too am interested in early music; many of the scores are editions/arrangements. While the originals are presumably out of copyright, can the same be said of editions published in the twentieth century (where 50 years has not yet elapsed since the death of the editor)? Of course, many of these edited materials are now out of print so it would be tempring to make them available in scanned copies if that were legal …

  17. @nope

    I have never come across a piece on that site which didn’t have a version of what I want available in excellent quality. My tastes are fairly mainstream though, perhaps for the lesser-known stuff the scan quality goes down? Even if that were the case, I’d rather spend 10 minutes in Photoshop/Gimp to fix the issue than spend 2 hours going/browsing/returning from a music shop downtown and pay $35+tax for a book that will clutter my piano. But to each his own.

    Also I don’t really play any Sibelius so wouldn’t know about specific issues unique to that one composer.

  18. Mario Dubleau says:

    @end user – there is also a.k.a globotech who are pretty solid in the canadian scene.