Feeds

Guitar instruction sites shut down by music industry

When does learning become copyright infringement?

Security for virtualized datacentres

Music publishers are taking action against guitar fan websites which they say infringe songwriters' copyrights. Publishers have started to use copyright lawsuits to shut down sites which share notations to help musicians to play songs at home.

Called guitar tablature, or tab, the notations indicate where players should put their fingers. Books filled with tab are available in shops, but a number of websites make tab notations available for free. Now trade bodies are taking action against those sites.

The New York Times reports that the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) and the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) have shut down several websites or forced them to remove all tabs using threats of copyright lawsuits. The sites are typically fan-run and not significant profit-making enterprises.

Some of the tab notations are copied from paid-for books, but most of them are worked out by players just from listening to performances of songs. Some legal commentators in the US suggest that tabs generated by users may have free speech protection.

"People can get [tab] for free on the internet, and it's hurting the songwriters," MPA president Lauren Keiser told the New York Times. The trade associations represent publishers, who share royalties from tab book sales with the composers of the material.

Many of the websites that publish tabs are online communities rather than businesses and claim that much of the music involved would never have tabs created commercially, since only the most popular material is published in tab books.

"The company which owns this website has been indirectly threatened with legal action by the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) as well as the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) on the basis that sharing tablature constitutes copyright infringement," said a statement at one of these sites, Guitar Tab Universe, from its manager Rob Balch.

"At what point does describing how one plays a song on guitar become an issue of copyright infringement? This website, among other things, helps users teach each other how they play guitar parts for many different songs. This is the way music teachers have behaved since the first music was ever created. The difference here is that the information is shared by way of a new technology: the internet."

Publishers argue that copyright legislation protects the tablature because they are "derivative works" of the original songs, which means they enjoy the same protection. So far, none of the sites has fought the orders to stop publishing the tabs.

"When you are jamming with a friend and you show him/her the chords for a song you heard on the radio, is that copyright infringement? What about if you helped him/her remember the chord progression or riff by writing it down on, say, a napkin...infringement?" Balch said in his statement. "If he/she calls you later that night on the phone or emails you and you respond via one of those methods, are you infringing? I don't know."

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.