Today I received some feedback from a “global moderator” on cpdl.org. Apparently he/she will recommend that the posting which effectively hijacked and sabotaged both Dennis Collins’ excellent editorial work and our joint copyrights be removed from their listing. But wait! Not because of the above, but
rather because it has been customary to post only complete works on CPDL that only complete works to be posted. [SIC]
Brandishing US “free use” legislation like a light sabre, the moderator claims that a US-based website is not liable to European Union copyright laws. Furthermore focussing on graphic rather than intellectual rights, (s)he continues:
Thus, if someone in the UK makes a photocopy of a work protected by a graphical copyright, the photocopy is infringing. However, as I understand it, a public domain work protected by graphical copyright is set in a manner that does not replicate the original exactly does not infringe the original copyright. This would seem to be what happened here, where the figured bass was replaced by a realization, however crude that realization may, or may not be.
By that argument, any edition can be reworked by anyone, anywhere in the world, irrespective of the standard of the work and then posted to cpdl.org (together with a link back to the original owner’s website, remember!), asking if anyone out there in the real world has the complete piece. Remember also that the complete work is available from Prima la musica! for the massive sum of £4, with an option on a written-out continuo part for £10 (which, considering it will take considerably more than an hour to do, is pretty good value).
My rant yesterday inspired me to delve deeper into what is on offer at cpdl.org. For no particular reason, I ended up comparing the two editions listed of a piece by Gesualdo (Mercè grido piangendo) and was amazed by the differences. One is in that typical late 16th century time signature 4/4 throughout, while the other varies between common and triple time (the latter represented by the equally common 6/2…) In the absence of ANY editorial information, how is one to decide which (if either) one can trust? I think it is wonderful that such marvellous music is available – not everyone has access to the originals (or even the Gesualdo Edition), and being able to have copies of just one madrigal from a particular set is doubtless very useful.
It seems Dennis too was driven to explore cpdl.org and he threw up another fundamental problem with the “let’s pinch someone else’s edition” principle – pace the “global moderator”, that is essentially what we are talking about here: most of the Monteverdi scores listed are based on the Complete Edition by Malipiero and, as anyone who has bothered to check the original sources will know, his scores are anything but reliable. To have them reproduced (for whatever reason) is simultaneously shameful and shameless. Those of us who work in the field (trying to eke out a living which cpdl.org’s users would take away from us) make great efforts to track down often multiple original sources in order to produce a thoroughly reliable text, listing all the problems the source material sets us, and detailing how we have dealt with those problems. Dennis also pointed out that the re-settings of Schütz’s Kleine geistliche Konzerte (broken links on cpdl.org, but available from that other free download site, werner icking archive) not only fail to correct Spitta’s transcription errors but add a few of their own.
Like so many aspects of Western life nowadays, everyone is desperately keen to assert their rights. Unfortunately most everyone fails to accept the fundamental premise that with rights come responsibilities. Yes, you are at liberty to spend your time typesetting music for your own use, but – if you plan to share the fruits of your labours with the rest of the world – you owe it to them at least to get the notes right. If you include a continuo realization, it should at least be musical. I cannot imagine the moderators on Wikipedia tolerating an illiterate article, so why should ChoralWiki be any different?
Just as an aside: while I am grateful that I did get a response from cpdl.org, I should point out that it was not in response to my email (which bounced) but rather to a colleague’s posting on another site… I’m not the only one who is outraged by this situation. Thankfully.
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