Originals, not copies!

Why photocopying music is no trivial matter.

When you buy a Bärenreiter music edition or book, you hold a product in your hands which many people have been involved in in terms of its developmental process and dissemination. Most important and at the beginning of the chain, are of course the composer or arranger, who assign the relevant rights to the publisher. The publisher then engages music engravers and printers and begins marketing activities in order to bring the finished product to the customer. This usually occurs via the music dealers who are generally the point of contact between the publisher and musicians. This all costs money, indeed rather a lot of money, which the publisher first of all has to earn in order to cover the costs and, above all, to be able to pay the composer/arranger of the work an appropriate remuneration for his/her creative work. The publisher then uses any ensuing profits to fund new projects – to realize and produce new music editions. This is a well-established process in which all participants profit from each other. Any disruption to this cycle can result in the fact that ultimately new editorial projects can no longer be realized on cost grounds, composers no longer see their creative activity as worthwhile, or the music trade, already beleaguered, comes under even greater pressure.

Illegal photocopying endangers this cycle to a considerable and ever-increasing extent. When you consider that, in 2007 alone, according to a representative survey of the two major German church groups, a total of approximately 700,000 illegal copies of choral works were made in the Catholic and Protestant congregations, it is not difficult to imagine the financial loss to publishers and copyright owners. In addition to this, the fact should be added that only reported copies were actually recorded in this survey, so the number of unrecorded cases may well exceed this figure many times over. In Germany the situation seems to be similar in the vast area of amateur music-making. This comprises 30,000 - 40,000 ensembles with around 1.5 million musicians as well as those in the educational area, which includes both music schools (approximately 1 million pupils) and the professional training institutions.

Against this background, legislation was adopted as part of copyright law several years ago strictly forbidding the photocopying of music and providing copyright owners with the legal apparatus to prosecute illegal photocopying. There are very few exceptions to this ban, so that it can be reasonably claimed that copying music which is in copyright is basically not allowed. Works are initially protected for 70 years after the composer’s or arranger’s death. Arrangements which are also protected for these 70 years (as they are generally associated with an artistic contribution) include piano reductions and choral arrangements as well as fingering and bowing. Works by composers who died more than 70 years ago are still protected if the music in question is a new scholarly edition. The latter is most of the time the case with publications from the leading music publishers. First editions of previously unpublished works are protected for 25 years after publication. In addition, there is frequently protection against illegal photocopying when playing music out of the home according to the law against unfair competition. As a result, it can be assumed that a general ban on photocopying music exists. There is no right to photocopying for private purposes, as exists with recordings.

Please be aware that illegal photocopying – and illegal downloading of course – presents a real danger to a functioning musical life and use only original copies, rather than photocopies.

Foto: Breitkopf & Härtel (1993)

› To top ‹