PDF Scanning should be welcomed (Sibelius Blog)

Earlier today, Philip Rothman (who runs the Subelius Blog) wrote a post about Finale’s newly announced feature of importing PDF files directly into Finale.  You can read the whole post here (recommended): http://www.sibeliusblog.com/opinion/finales-new-importing-feature-should-be-welcomed-not-scorned/

If you don’t follow the Sibelius Blog, you should, as it is the primary news conduit for notation software (the blog used to be run by Daniel Spreadbury, now with Steinberg and the upcoming Dorico).  Don’t let the name of the blog fool you–it is about digital music notation of all kinds, and should probably be renamed to reflect that quality.  I love Mr. Rothman’s work, and I hope to meet him at some point in the future.

Apparently the Facebook thread on Finale’s announcement has not been positive.  

The funny thing is that there are already ways to convert a PDF into digital music, via PDFtoMusic Pro (only with a document created by a notation software package), PhotoScore (or my favorite: NotateMe with the PhotoScore IAP), or even SmartScore (the scanning software bundled with Finale, but available in a much more robust package).  And to be 100% honest, no PDF is ever “locked,” with the right software, nothing is truly locked in any format.  Locking simply keeps honest people honest–which makes you wonder if it is worth locking in the first place.

I am amazed at the concern about copyright when it comes to scanned music.  In the blog post, composers were worried more about artistic intent than income–and I wonder if that is the case, or if it looks too self-serving to write about income first.  When I have discussed scanning with music educators, copyright also becomes an immediate concern.  What we have to realize is that copyright is broken all the time, not just by scanning.  That teacher that makes a photocopy of music so that students can bring it home but not lose the originals?  Copyright infringement.  That choir teacher that rewrites notes for a boy with a changing voice?  Copyright infringement.  The director that posts a video on YouTube (or knowingly allows a parent to do so)?  Copyright infringement.  The choir director that makes a rehearsal recording for their students?  Copyright infringement.  The school that lends a score to another school for a concert?  Copyright infringement (your purchase does not allow you to extend the agreement beyond your own school).  The list goes on and on.  

That doesn’t mean you should go out and purposely break copyright, but it is probably time to rethink copyright and fair use in terms of music and music education.

There are several realities that composers/arrangers/and publishers have to come to grips with:

  1. Composers/Arrangers/Engravers/Editors/Publishers deserve to be paid, but the old model is broken.  If you self-publish an app or a book on iTunes or the iBook Store, the creator gets 70% of the profit and Apple earns 30%.  Apple splits its 30% with others, such as a 7% of the overall cost (25% of its income) to referrals.  It is time for an iBooks or Amazon Kindle store for music, where publishers can make content available and individuals can publish without a publisher or editor.  There should be a way to buy classroom sets, and a way to print songs for teachers who want paper music.  And yes, composers and arrangers should be paid more.
  2. I would also be happy to see an Apple Music solution, where schools bought subscriptions to ALL music.  The fees would be based on number of students, and directors would report which songs were used so that composers/arrangers/publishers could be paid.
  3. The existing online stores are all publisher based, and bring huge limitiations–such as the cost of music.  Online copies are at face value–sometimes more. My local music store will give us a 10% discount at any time, meaning that if I am willing to wait a week or two, I can save over buying instantly–and instantly means the publisher isn’t paying for printing, binding, shipping, or even to a local bookstore.
  4. I realize this means that local music stores will no longer benefit from music sales.  That’s okay–then they can focus more on the other aspects of their business.
  5. The transition to paper music means that it would be easier to distribute music, easier to collect music, and huge amounts of time, budget, and space can be saved without having to store and file music.
  6. Music libraries would no longer have to worry about damage.  I have seen two such situations: one where termites ate the entire music collection, another where the entire storage room flooded.
  7. School budgets are not what they were.  Choral octavos are often $2.25 (or more) for 8 pages of music.  A P/A CD is often $26.99.  Music shouldn’t cost this much.  I have taught with a declining budget for the past fifteen years–and this isn’t changing any time soon.  I think my situation is the norm.
  8. There should be a way to trade in an existing music library for digitial versions–perhaps at a fraction of the cost of the purchase of a new copy.  Perhaps schools could be recompensated for providing a clean scan of a song that is Permanently Out of Print.  At any rate, copyright should allow for the conversion from paper to digital for all collections.
  9. No song should ever be POP.
  10. There should be an easier way to obtain permission to do things like arranging for changing voice, orchestrating something, or making a song for Mariachi (see the Sibelius Blog article).
  11. The current trend of every publisher having their own store and app is a killer in education.
  12. It is frustrating to buy expensive music and to find notation typos which cannot be corrected.  In a digitial format, publishers could edit typos in a minute.
  13. I have bought a number of items over the years that were in the public domain, and I have never once had a music store or publisher contact me and say, “Download this and print this…save your money for something newer that is under copyright.”

I am hoping that Alfred, as a part of Peaksware (which also owns MakeMusic) will be a leader in changes to copyright and distribution/sales of music.  I am also hopeful that Noteflight’s involvement with Hal Leonard will cause changes there, too.

On the other side of the equation, why might a teacher want to scan?

  1. To create authentic assessments in green note/red note software
  2. To create an accompaniment track/rehearsal track–either with piano, or with parts
  3. On a related note, to let students hear their part in context
  4. To provide a copy free of errors
  5. To modify an arrangement (changing voice/missing instrument/etc).
  6. To make a cleaner copy of a score, perhaps splitting parts that usually appear on one staff into multiple staff (think 3 part women’s scores on a SATB choral octavos that switches women from one to three parts throughout a song–confusing to say the least).
  7. To extract a single line to make it accessible to a person with disabilities (e.g. Zoom a single part 300% for a sight-I pared individual)
  8. To simply the arranging of a song to another medium (thiis was a major concern in the Siblius Blog post)
  9. To use digitial notation, such as Newzik (see my last post)

Again, all of these uses, other than #1 (and perhaps #3), are against copyright (Fair use states that you can use up to 10% of a work for educational purposes, making scanning for use with green note/red note assessments a truly legitimate use of scanning under copyright).  It would be great to see publishers, composers, and arrangers embrace all of these uses.  In truth, I want to be able to download a PDF and MusicXML file of any song I purchase, particularly if I am buying a classroom set.

Please note that I have not included “as a way to avoid paying for a song.”  I recently heard about a choir director who was very excited about buying music from Sheet Music Direct.  They were thrilled that all they had to do was to buy 5 copies of a song to be able to use it with their whole choir.  They were devastated to learn they were in breach of copyright.  And yes, they truly thought that was the case.  

When I was in college, we studied the Lutheran liturgy, and one of the things I loved was that Lutherans asked to be forgiven for the “things we have done and the things we have left undone.”  When it comes to copyright, there are sins of omission and sins of commission.  If someone wants to use music illegally, they will do so with the “5 copy” trick, with a Smartphone (e.g. Readdle’s Scanner Pro) , or with a photo copier.  They aren’t going to be scanning with the intent to use and distribute.

I think back to a series of articles and Twitter posts by Andy Inhatko, who was writing about Game of Thrones and how many people were illegally accessing the series.  His point was this: Make it easier and affordable for people to obtain something legally than it is illegally to do so, and most people will follow the path of least resistance.  The same is true for music.  Address copyright for music education, make it easy to obtain and cost-effective to buy music, and most people will do so.  Make it easier for us to use the music in the ways we need to use it.  That is a scary thought if you are an old-school executive at a music publisher.  The key is to focus on the potential (increased) income from a source of revenue based on legal use that meets the needs of music education.  Sure, there will always be those that break the rules.  But the rules simply keep honest people honest, and I would like to think that most music educators fall into a grouping of honest people.

P.S.  As I have written before, if there was a multi-publisher and independent publisher/self publisher iBook Store/Kindle Store/Apple Music for sheet music, publishers could subcontract music stores to go and check compliance with schools–and schools would have a clear case for specific funding–the cost would be based on numbers of students and would have to be be figured into the curriculum or fund-raising.  This would actually create equity among all schools in terms of available resources.  That could have an amazing impact on music education.

What would you do in your program if every song was available to you for a set fee per student per year?  Ensembles, solos, duets, etc.

It is 2016, in a world that is becoming cloud-based.  There is no (good) reason why this couldn’t and shouldn’t happen.

P.P.S. Some publishers are part-way there, such as Carl Fisher offering P/A recordings as free downloads, or Graphite Publishing and Bandworks offerings PDF sets of music to purchasers.  That is the right direction, to be sure.

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Posted on June 17, 2016, in Digital Sheet Music, Music Scanning. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on PDF Scanning should be welcomed (Sibelius Blog).

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