May 10, 2008

Copy that

This image is approved public domain, smarty.Ian Whitelaw, in his review of Simon McKerrell and Finlay MacDonald’s new collection, makes matter-of-fact reference to bands photocopying music. At the front of the book itself there’s a message that says, “It is illegal to photocopy this book.”


Ian’s just mentioning a reality and I’m sure is the last person to circumvent copyright. Regardless, copying music for “educational purposes” is perfectly legal. Similarly, I don’t think Simon and Finlay are terribly concerned about one-off copies of tunes, and perhaps are thinking of wholesale recreation of the entire book.


Ever since the Haloid Company invented xerography, this battle has gone on. Since Bill Livingstone first cautioned us in his first collection in the 1980s, many other publishers of pipe music have included pleas to pipers that say in so many words: “If you like stuff in this book, then purchase it.”


I welcome every new collection. But I also wonder if new books of music are old-think. Do many people download entire CDs of music? Most people I know (but not me, generally) go to iTunes or PlanetPipe or wherever and purchase the one or two things they like.


Jim McGillivray’s takes advantage of this new reality. His site is a growing resource for pipers looking for that one piece of music that they really want, without having to pay $30 for the whole collection. And ever since David Glen started compiling tunes, there has always been a certain amount of filler in those pricey works. Even Donald MacLeod’s collection has some (very) occasional duff stuff.


And most composers I think just want their music played. Distribution is usually the hard part, and some I know believe that the more widely distributed it is – purchased or not – the higher the odds that it will be played. And when original copyright music is played, the composer makes the more significant money.


I think I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth saying again, especially with the irony between the statement in the book and the comment in the review. It’s really all about getting it out there.


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