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Orchestra To Turn Copyright-Free Classical Scores Into Copyright-Free Music 327

Posted by timothy
from the going-the-extra-stanza dept.
destinyland writes "An online music site has raised over $13,000 to hire a full orchestra to record royalty-free classical music. ('"Although the actual symphonies are long out of copyright, there is separate protection for every individual performance by an orchestra," notes one technology site.') MusOpen has reached their fundraising goal for both the orchestra and a recording facility, and will now record the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. And because their fundraising deadline doesn't end until Tuesday, they've promised to add additional recordings for every additional $1,000 raised."
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Orchestra To Turn Copyright-Free Classical Scores Into Copyright-Free Music

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  • First (Score:3, Funny)

    by hcpxvi (773888) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:55AM (#33552662)
    Beethoven symphony! (I for one do actually welcome our new free-music-producing overlords).
    • Great effort. Commendable work!
      • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

        by RDW (41497) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:52AM (#33553044)

        Great effort in a noble cause. However, they note in the original article that:

        'Right now, if you were to buy a CD of Beethoven's 9th symphony, you would not be legally allowed to do anything but listen to it. You wouldn't be able to share it, upload it, or use it as a soundtrack to your indie film- yet Beethoven has been dead for 183 years and his music is no longer copyrighted. There is a lifetime of music out there, legally in the public domain, but it has yet to be recorded and released to the public.'

        Here in the UK, the copyright term on recorded music is currently only 50 years. This means that most of the core classical repertoire is already available in this form, often as very high quality recordings (they knew what they were doing by the 50s!) of great performances. Now that the cash cows of the 60s are about to fall into the public domain, the record industry has lobbied for an extension, and draft EU legislation aims to push back the term to 70 years:

        http://www.euractiv.com/en/innovation/music-copyright-divisive-despite-meps-backing/article-181703 [euractiv.com]

        There are still some great performances of that Beethoven symphony from the 1930s, of course, but the 60s recordings in near-modern sound will be off limits for another couple of decades.

        • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

          by XanC (644172) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:57AM (#33553096)

          How in blazes does a *retroactive* copyright extension encourage the creation of the work? Has everybody in power forgotten the whole frapping point of copyright??

          • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

            by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:05PM (#33553152)

            How in blazes does a *retroactive* copyright extension encourage the creation of the work? Has everybody in power forgotten the whole frapping point of copyright??

            To appease your donors and get re-elected? Nope. They still remember.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by zippthorne (748122)

              I don't think the media industry can possibly be sufficiently significant donors to get this kind of thing. The US recording industry's total gross revenues in 2008 were smaller than Microsoft's net profit in that same year.

              I think they're donating something other than campaign funds. I think they're donating association. Stroking the egos of politicos by hanging out with them once in a while.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by phaggood (690955)
                >I don't think the media industry can possibly be sufficiently significant donor
                You sir have an out-sized idea of how little it actually takes to purchase a politician.
          • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Surt (22457) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:26PM (#33553314) Homepage Journal

            I'd say it's pretty straightforward. If I know I stand a good chance of receiving the benefits of a retroactive copyright extension, I'll then be more likely to create and publish a work, because I'll have reason to believe my income from doing so will be greater.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Unequivocal (155957)

              Mod parent funny people

            • by quizzicus (891184)
              You don't receive any income after you're dead, which is all that's been extended since 1976.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by RDW (41497)

            'How in blazes does a *retroactive* copyright extension encourage the creation of the work? Has everybody in power forgotten the whole frapping point of copyright??'

            It'll even discourage the creation of better versions of the original work. Right now, companies like Naxos are doing audio restoration jobs on out of copyright recordings that often shame the original label's CD release (if it's even available):

            http://www.naxos.com/historical/engineer_thorn.htm [naxos.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          >>>. This means that most of the core classical repertoire is already available in this form, often as very high quality recordings (they knew what they were doing by the 50s!) of great performances.

          You answered my question. I thought there was already public domain performances, just as Ed Woods masterpieces (cough) are now public domain. As for the "point" of copyright, it is to give authors a temporary monopoly as incentive to create art that will eventually fall into the possession of all the

          • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

            by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:23PM (#33553600) Homepage Journal

            As for the "point" of copyright, it is to give authors a temporary monopoly as incentive to create art that will eventually fall into the possession of all the People & enrich everybody.

            It seems some in the US Congress and EU Parliament have forgotten that.

            I'm not sure that's true outside of the US. Here that is the purpose ("to promote the progress of science and the useful arts"), but I think originally [wikipedia.org] it was supposed to help by replacing previous stronger but more ad-hoc monopoly rights.

            That page also has an interesting (anonymous) quote from when the first copyrights started to expire in 1735: "I see no reason for granting a further term now, which will not hold as well for granting it again and again, as often as the old ones expire... it will in effect be establishing a perpetual monopoly, a thing deservedly odious in the eye of the law; it will be a great cramp to trade, a discouragement to learning, no benefit to authors, but a general tax on the public; and all this only to increase the private gain of booksellers.".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              ..... a desire by the government to ensure only "approved" books could be printed, and not books or pamphlets that the Crown found objectionable. i.e. It was censorship of free expression of thought. Rightthought could be printed, but wrongthought was not allowed to be.

              No wonder Thomas Paine left Britannia, because he was forbidden from printing his works. Ditto many Scottish authors who spoke eloquently in favor of natural rights, but were blocked from doing so after the English Parliament extended its r

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by BrokenHalo (565198)
          Right now, if you were to buy a CD of Beethoven's 9th symphony, you would not be legally allowed to do anything but listen to it.

          On the other hand, you could obtain a score for the same work, and have the pleasure of spending unlimited hours imagining a variety of different interpretations as you read it through, "hearing" it in your head. This isn't actually as difficult as it might seem (given a little training and plenty of practice), and is highly rewarding.
          • Re:First (Score:5, Funny)

            by darthdavid (835069) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:26PM (#33553312) Homepage Journal
            Yep, who needs an MP3 player, just cart around a 3 ring binder full of sheet music. Fun for the whole family!
            • Re:First (Score:4, Funny)

              by RDW (41497) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:42PM (#33553400)

              'Yep, who needs an MP3 player, just cart around a 3 ring binder full of sheet music. Fun for the whole family!'

              Don't be silly, you just download http://imslp.org/ [imslp.org] to your iPad and sit on the train, nodding thoughtfully to yourself while humming the viola part. This also ensures that the seat next to you will be free, giving you more space to stretch out.

            • by CRCulver (715279)
              Last time I checked, Slashdot was "news for nerds", not a site for the general public. I'm sick of the recent trend here to knock things that don't appeal to the general public, even if they might hold great interest for nerds.
              • I'm hardly the greatest musician on the planet, but I've know how to read sheet music and am at least vaguely competent on 3 different instruments. To suggest that sheet music is a complete replacement for listening to music is a fucking farce. I don't think GP was actually saying that, but you can red the post that way which is why I made a joke.

                But the internet is serious business so let's all get our panties in a knot...

      • OK, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BrokenHalo (565198)
        There's more to a performance of an orchestral work than the employment of "a renowned orchestra". What conductor will they use? Nowadays, most of the major orchestras choose their conductors (as opposed to the opposite-way-around practice of yesteryear), but I wonder if their employment contracts will allow the conductors to do this sort of "pro-bono" work.

        I'm not saying this couldn't or shouldn't happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if this issue that will comes up.
  • Open your wallets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spikenerd (642677) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#33552684)
    Every quality song that is released to the public domain makes a future where it will be slightly more difficult for the RIAA to survive. Is there be a more noble cause anywhere on this planet?
    • by Barrinmw (1791848) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#33552694)
      Not even saving abandoned puppies me thinks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      On the planet, there certainly is. In the United States, probably not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pronobozo (794672)
      This is along my train of thought. I think people should stop complaining about copyright and start taking action and put their own works under creative commons. It's a free world, if someone wants to restrict their work, they should have the right. If you don't like their system, start creating things and put it under some type of free license. We can live in a world where both systems exists and guess what, it already does! If enough people support it, it'll drown out your hated restricted content. H
    • If you're for releasing to the public domain then why do you care if the RIAA survives? Think about it.
      • by digitig (1056110)
        Because they'll still try to charge you for the PD music, because they think that all recordings must belong to somebody.
      • Re:Open your wallets (Score:5, Informative)

        by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:12PM (#33553202)

        If you're for releasing to the public domain then why do you care if the RIAA survives? Think about it.

        I can not find the link, but a bar was fined almost out of business for allowing a musician to play his own music (written by him) without paying a performance royalty to ASCAP. So that is why I want them gone. I actually would not mind paying for music, as long as none of the money goes to those marauding bastards.

        • by XorNand (517466) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:24PM (#33553610)

          I'm sure there's more to the story than that. Did the musician assign the copyright of his songs to a recording company? If so, then I'm sure he was monetarily compensated for doing so when he signed that agreement and understood that they were no longer "his" songs. And did the ASCAP have some sort of agreement with the bar that the owners were to ensure that no unauthorized performances were conducted?

          I'm not saying that these terms weren't laughably restrictive and counter to free culture. But the situation likely boils down a contract dispute--one that was entered into freely by all parties involved. If that's the case, there's enough blame to be spread around for agreeing to such terms. The ASCAP would not have had standing to sue if some random songwriter was performing in some random bar.

          • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:04PM (#33553820)

            I can well believe it. Search around small business forums, you'll find dozens of examples worldwide of small businesses being hassled by ASCAP or their local equivalent.

            IANAL, so I'm not going to go into the legal rights or wrongs, but AFAICT the general form is that if the business owner says that they don't need to pay eg. because their music is all composed and performed by the live singer who comes in every Tuesday, they get shown a piece of legislation that suggests otherwise and given an ultimatum - pay up, stop the music or we'll see you in court for so many hundreds of thousands of ${CURRENCY} you'll have no choice but to declare yourself bankrupt.

            Most small business owners are more interested in running their business than fighting a lengthy court battle - if you're in court for a day that's a day when you're not actually working on the thing that's supposed to provide your living - and so fold.

        • Re:Open your wallets (Score:5, Informative)

          by gizmonic (302697) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:38PM (#33553700) Homepage

          I had never actually heard of this before, but man, what complete bullshit. And a single google search provides tons of examples, if not that specific case:

          http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2010/06/09/pay_to_play/ [boston.com]
          http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100518/2341299481.shtml [techdirt.com]
          http://www.woodpecker.com/writing/essays/phillips.html [woodpecker.com]

          At least Bruce seems to have some common sense (make sure you read the update):

          http://gothamist.com/2010/02/04/the_boss_sues_midtown_pub.php [gothamist.com]

          That pretty much represents the final straw on the camel's back for me. From this point forward, I will only ever pay for independent music. If your band is a member of any of those organizations, I will be performing civil disobedience against unwarranted extortion, and just pirate your shit if I want to have it. If you don't like it, leave those groups, and I'll buy it. And for the record, this is coming from someone who legally owns nearly 1000 CDs, and a good couple thousand iTunes songs (where the 99 cents was worth more than buying a full cd for one or two songs). But fuck it. I went to a lot of trouble (and expense, over the years) to do what I thought was the right thing. Apparently, I was wrong, since I was merely funding the absurdities of this kind of bullshit. My apologies to everyone else for helping promote this situation with my purchases. It won't happen again.

    • Not sure that would work, they would just change their business plan.
      The Italian RIAA (the local name is SIAE) has started charging a "missed revenue tax" on empty media. Wanna buy a CD-R, a DVD or even a hard disk in Italy? You have to pay your share. Even if you use it to burn the photos of your holidays.
      • Not sure that would work, they would just change their business plan.

        The Italian RIAA (the local name is SIAE) has started charging a "missed revenue tax" on empty media. Wanna buy a CD-R, a DVD or even a hard disk in Italy? You have to pay your share. Even if you use it to burn the photos of your holidays.

        So, is it legal to fill up the media with 100% pirated stuff??

    • My prediction is that the lack of copyright will help CD sales rather than hurt them, because removing restrictions adds value. I, for one, will be happy to pay for a high-quality CD that, for the first time in my life, I actually own in every sense of the word, with which I am free to do whatever I please, whether it is to use excerpts in for a home video, use as part of the background music in a school play, or anything else with no cares or concerns about legal issues. In fact I'll probably buy their
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        Exactly! Kind of how I have bought more games in the last six months than I had in 2 years thanks to finding out about Good Old Games [gog.com]. Instead of having to worry about draconian DRM bullshit breaking my PC all they have is "We do a loot of work to get these going. Please don't share them, okay?" so I don't. Hell their prices are so low anybody can buy them (none higher than $10) and most importantly unlike the "limited install" bullshit we're seeing more and more I can back up, burn, and reinstall anytime a

    • I find that immensely sad that the motive to hurt the RIAA trumps the motive to simply enrich the culture. I know you were probably being ironic, but it hits a little too close to home. It just goes to show how little of a role art plays in the copyright wars.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kocsonya (141716)

        "the motive to hurt the RIAA trumps the motive to simply enrich the culture"

        Hurting the RIAA, MPAA et al *does* enrich the culture.

    • Re:Open your wallets (Score:4, Interesting)

      by icannotthinkofaname (1480543) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:52PM (#33553442) Journal

      Is there be a more noble cause anywhere on this planet?

      You mean, I make him better, Humperdinck suffers? Ha ha ha! That is a noble cause!

  • This is very cool (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wwphx (225607) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#33552686) Homepage
    I've been considering doing a podcast on board/card game design and music is an issue. I know there's lots of Creative Commons music out there, but who has time to go through it? With this, I can find selections of music that I already have and like, download their version, and Robert's your mother's brother.

    I'm also impressed by Kickstarter. I didn't know about it until last week and I ?think it's also pretty cool.
    • One part of me says: this is great, should have happened a long time ago.

      Record once, and be done with it, instead of paying over and over again.

      But the other part is: After you're done recording symphonies, and no one needs (or needs to pay) orchestra players again, and they have to go into some other livelihood, where are you going to get orchestra players the next time you need them?

      • Every recording is unique, and there is nothing like a live performance. So really there is no fear to be had about the livelihood of the players. Now the industry responsible for the distribution of the recordings... Well, they're evil anyway.

      • by Dekker3D (989692)
        Live music. Just like every anti-RIAA Slashdotter has been telling the pro-RIAA Slashdotter for years now. The idea is that your music should be so awesome that people will pay to see it played live anyway, even if it's also available as an MP3. Of course, different orchestra...e? also have a different sound and a different interpretation of the way they should play each song.
      • by jonwil (467024)

        There will always be newer (and still in copyright) pieces of music for orchestras to play.
        Ask any good film director how important a good orchestra is to his films.
        Also, just because there is now a copyright-free version of (say) Beethoven's 9th doesn't mean that no orchestra will ever play it again. They havent invented a digital sound recording process that is good enough to replace the glory that is hearing good classical music performed live.

        It DOES mean that companies like Naxos who make money selling

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        Very few orchestras make money from recordings, and even fewer make them from recordings of public domain music. The definitive recording of Beethoven's symphonies, for example, is usually regarded as being Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded in 1968 and 1972. Compare the sales of this to any other recording of Beethoven's symphonies, and you'll see a massive difference.

        Orchestras make money in two ways: concerts, and commissioned recordings (like the ones in TFA). For examp

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#33552688)
    when they finish i hope to find another story here at /. linking to BitTorrent files to the music :)
  • Broadway? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach.gmail@com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#33552690) Homepage
    Why aren't they doing what broadway did [slashdot.org]? They can replace the musicians with synthesizers and record MORE music to protect copyrights.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      > Why aren't they doing what broadway did? They can replace the musicians with synthesizers and record MORE music to protect copyrights. ...clearly not someone that listens to or appreciates classical music.

    • Re:Broadway? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mitchells00 (1181549) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:08AM (#33552732)
      Synthesizers are never as good as the real thing, they don't have the ability to add certain qualities to the music like emotion. Any true musician would understand the passion that flows through their instrument as they play; very much like having sex. Yes the synths can sound very convincing, but they're just not the same thing. They don't have the level of human error and randomness built in.
      • Re:Broadway? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:19AM (#33552786) Homepage
        I've met a fair few classical music fans who prefer MIDI versions of various piano repertoire to human performances. Some of them are musicians themselves.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          If it's just piano and it's well-programmed then you can get quite good results. Piano synthesis seems well-explored compared to most other instruments.

      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:54AM (#33553068) Homepage

        Yes the synths can sound very convincing, but they're just not the same thing. They don't have the level of human error and randomness built in.

        IIRC during the early 1970s one of the prog rock bands (I think it was Yes) had an early analogue synth that was extremely tempramental and unreliable. One evening in the middle of a concert it picked up a radio transmission of an announcer reading out the football results.

        Now, you were saying...? :-)

      • You my friend, have not played a modern synth.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:20PM (#33553274)

        I play around with sampled music all the time because it is a lot of fun, and I CAN'T afford to hire out an orchestra just to goof around. If you want to check it out go to soundsonline.com, they are the samples I like. Very realistic. You can do some amazingly realistic performances with them too... But it is a real pain. To do so you have to spend a lot of time programming (MIDI programming, not computer programming). It requires a lot of adjusting what sample is used, the various data (modulation, expression, etc) sent to the sampler and so on. So you probably can make something that sounds convincingly real, if you spend a lot of time.

        However with a musician, you just tell them what you want and they give it to you. You can say "Make it sadder," or "I need this part to be light, this part to be heavy." You can be vague and use emotional terms, and they can handle that and give you what you want.

        So unless you are really skilled with your sequencer and have tons of time on your hands, you aren't going to get a highly realistic sound. I sure can't. I can get it pretty realistic, which is all I want for fooling around, but I could have something sound much better and much more like I want just by giving it to an orchestra along with some instructions. As it stands I can spend an hour choosing string samples and mixing them to try and get the sound I want, where a real strings section would take 5 minutes and get it right on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mike610544 (578872)

          As it stands I can spend an hour choosing string samples and mixing them to try and get the sound I want, where a real strings section would take 5 minutes and get it right on.

          It's not just the time/effort. The members of a good orchestra have devoted their lives to mastering their instruments. They know the context of the piece being played. They will imbue their performance with some level of emotion. Computers can't do that.

          MIDI orchestrations can be made to sound incredibly realistic. Some of the LA Scoring Strings [audiobro.com] demos are amazing, but it's an incredibly realistic simulation of soulless robots playing stringed instruments.

          • Oh, please (Score:3, Insightful)

            by professorguy (1108737)

            They will imbue their performance with some level of emotion. Computers can't do that.

            Not true. If there is some characteristic of the music that you can hear, then it is a modification of the pressure wave that reaches your ear. If it's a matter of changing the waveform, then computers absolutely CAN do it.

            I admit that it would take a lot of research to discover what we perceive as "emotion" in the music, but if it's there then it can be emulated. However, let's admit right out of the gate that if you played Piece A to an audiophile and told him it was humans, then Piece A again and t

      • I don't think you've heard what a skilled orchestrator can do with a synthesizer or sampler such as Hollywood Strings [soundsonline.com] or Vienna Symphonic Library [vsl.co.at].

        I recommend you listen to some of the demo songs [soundsonline.com] from each one [vsl.co.at]. I recommend Allegro Agitato [soundsonline.com].

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fbjon (692006)
          I use those and like them, but you're missing a crucial point: those sound best when the music is produced for them specifically, within their limitations. Try something a little more 'out there', and you'll have a hard time coaxing the virtual synths to cope.
    • Why aren't they doing what broadway did [slashdot.org]? They can replace the musicians with synthesizers and record MORE music to protect copyrights.

      Because Turing-machines can't produce art.

  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FritzTheCat1030 (758024) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:06AM (#33552720)
    This is great news, but that's 26 complete symphonies, probably something along the lines of 17 hours of music (at an average of 40 minutes each...that's probably a little low actually). Add in rehearsal times and I have serious doubts about the feasibility of doing this for $13,000. I wish them luck, but I'd rather have less music at a higher quality than more with an amateur-level ensemble.
    • Did you ever think that maybe the people involved are highly skilled professionals who are doing this for their love of the music and all time and resources are being volunteered? If that's the case, $13,000 can go a long way. To just assume that the people are cheap amateurs is ridiculously short-sighted.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And to assume that even a collection of highly skilled professionals will somehow instantly become a wonderful orchestra is equally arrogant. It takes time, much rehearsal, a great conductor and great section coaches to produce an ensemble capable of truly brilliant music.

        Shop around. There are tons of CDs out of performances at the level we're likely to get here, usually for a couple bucks each. I applaud the effort, but let's be realistic about our expectations.
    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:39AM (#33552956) Homepage

      That's what I was thinking too, in the comments it was asked but the answers are fuzzy:

      1. What orchestra(s) are you planning on using
      2. Who is conducting?
      3. Who is mixing the recording?

      1. orchestra depends on total raised. I'm hoping for a mixture of conservatories + professional orchestra to lower cost and increase total music, but it depends on what we can negotiate and the total raised. Some orchestras we are considering include London Symphony, Czech Philharmonic and several others that regularly record movie soundtracks.
      2. I have several contacts who would conduct for free, I'd also like to try contacting some well known conductors to see if they would be interested. My backup would be a for hire's conductor that orchestras use to record with
      3. Several orchestras we've spoken to include those kinds of services as they regularly record for movie soundtracks

      I read that as "might possibly be considering it for one of them if we exceed our budget, I doubt you'll get the London Symphony to record it for $500/symphony...

      • Re:Great! (Score:4, Informative)

        by fizzup (788545) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:06PM (#33553846)

        At 7:00 this morning, they were at $13K. Now, it's 11:00 and they are nearly at $23K, velocity is over $2,000 per hour right now, and there are over 50 hours remaining. Now that this is on slashdot, it's only a matter of time before it gets on digg, reddit, and becomes a twitternado.

        If they raise $100K, that's starting to get into the range of reasonable contracts to have great orchestras record 26 symphonies with named-above-the-orchestra conductors. Even if Naxos has a kitten over this and starts to strong-arm, $100K will turn some heads.

        Should you choose to part with three CDs worth of your hard earned money - $50 - that will get you a dvd of everything musopen [musopen.com] has ever recorded in this way. Lossless. And if you have some doubts about the quality of their recordings, download a few before you give money. It's public domain, yeah?

    • Given that these are famous symphonies, it's entirely possible that no rehearsal time is required, as the orchestra has probably performed them before. They are probably offering a seriously reduced rate as well - given the distribution that public domain recordings are likely to receive, the amount of publicity they'd receive is likely to be worth a lot to them.
    • Of course you're right EXCEPT,
      that every musician worth his salt has cut his teeth on the classics; they quite likely have mixed these classics into their various seasons for many years. I certainly wish them well.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Funny)

    by paiute (550198) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:23AM (#33552812)

    Dear Sir or Madame,

    I represent the estate of Mr. Ludwig van Beethoven.

    We see that you have downloaded a copy of Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven from www.musopen.com. Enclosed is a bill for $500, payable immediately.

    We are aware that the site you have downloaded our client's work from represents it to be "copyright-free"; however, the musicians who recorded this work did so only after listening to a copyrighted recording of our client's work. Thus, this new work is a derivative work of Mr. Beethoven's and is covered under our copyright.

    regards,

    H. G. Reckshun, Esq.
    Dewey, Cheatham, Howe, and Reckshun

  • by hessian (467078) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:30AM (#33552856) Homepage Journal

    MusOpen has a great idea and I am glad to see them pursuing it. Since I've started buying classical music, I've found I'm getting more enjoyment per work than I ever did with popular music.

    Before MusOpen, there was the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's giveaway of 10 symphonies:

    http://kco.radio4.nl/index.php?lang=en [radio4.nl]

    http://www.concertgebouworkest.nl/page.ocl?pageid=109&lang=en [concertgebouworkest.nl]

    My favorites are the Schubert, Saint-Saens, Bruckner and Beethoven.

    • by XanC (644172)

      Those are MP3-only (not lossless), and they don't appear to be anything close to public domain. I don't see any mention of a license. Registration is required, and I believe redistribution is verboten.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RDW (41497)

      The BBC tried this in the UK with a set of free-as-in-beer Beethoven symphonies. The music industry whined about it and the typically gutless response of the BBC Trust was to promise never to do it again:

      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23652107-end-this-downloads-ban.do [thisislondon.co.uk]
      http://www.scena.org/columns/lebrecht/070207-NL-downloads.html [scena.org]

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Hey, I remember those and I got them. Unfortunately they were not licensed under any form of CC or public domain, they were simply limited free-as-in-beer downloads so once they shut down the source, no one could legally distribute them. The promise here is that these works will be released into the public domain, assuming the paperwork is done correctly that can't be undone.

        • by RDW (41497)

          'Unfortunately they were not licensed under any form of CC or public domain, they were simply limited free-as-in-beer downloads so once they shut down the source, no one could legally distribute them.'

          It's arguably even sadder that such a limited experiment like this provoked such howls of indignation about 'unfair competition'. Never mind that 1.4 million downloads, probably many of them by people who wouldn't normally listen to this stuff, might in the long term bring in new customers to the music industr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:32AM (#33552874)
    While I certainly applaud what they're doing, I just wanted to point out that classical music is generally about the quality of the performances themselves. So what orchestra are they hiring? How much practice/exposure to some of these pieces will they have? Will they be sight-reading some of them? It will be nice to have recordings out there that are free of any copyright issues, but it won't mean much if the performances are mediocre or have glaring mistakes (wrong notes, missed entrances, etc). I'm curious if anyone has asked any city/community or college orchestras if they'd be interested in releasing some of their recordings into the public domain.
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:37AM (#33552916)

    Most symphony orchestras get taxpayer support. When they record, it's often subsidised by the federal government, or state and local ones. In many cases, the people who manage and broker deals for these orchestras artificially split the funding, so that all the necessary preliminaries to album sales are supposedly based on private investment/contributions. They treat it like all the practice sessions for a live performance are taxpayer subsidised, but the practice sessions for the album are paid for by private sources, so that the law is technically being observed. It's part of that whole "socialise the costs and privatise the profits" school of economics. It makes no sense as a matter of fact instead of law - does anyone really want to claim that they practiced the same piece for live performance and recording, but only put the part of that practice that was funded by one method or the other into their performances. "Yeah, I deliberately held back on that Oboe cadenza, so it didn't sound like all the practice I had contributed to my leet symphonizing skillz!".
              What the federal government funds is normally held in the public trust, not subject to copyright. I know several symphony soloists and conductors who are generally uncomfortable with this legal ruse, and have heard accounts of many more. Most orchestras don't have the stature to sell a lot of recordings, and taxpayer funding generally takes any profit from CD sales into account, so it seldom benefits the performers much, if at all. It's more likely they see the same overall pay, with a shift in just when they get each check because some of it is coming as royalties after sales figures are processed. It makes bookkeeping for symphonies much more complex, and some managing directors see it as a big gamble, where they might get lucky and see really impressive sales, but doing classical music at the major orchestra level isn't gambling to most people, it's a steady job with a safe floor for income. Just like some people in rock/pop/rap/whatever become studio musicians because they want a steady paycheck instead of a high risk venture, people who shoot for a job in the second row violins for the New York Philharmonic want a reliable career instead of a 1 in 10,000 chance of a mansion with leopard skin covered volleyball courts.

  • I'm curious where they plan on finding the orchestra to play this music with such a small budget. People still need to be paid for their time and effort. Then there's finding a proper studio with high quality recording equipment. That isn't cheap and plopping down a microphone on stage isn't going to cut it. And who will decide how the music will be played? What interpretation will they follow? Things get complicated quite quickly.

    Then there's the matter of the ultimate format these compositions would be pr

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It appears that they will be playing the core canon of classical music that all the musicians will have been learning and playing since they first picked up their instruments, thus rehearsal time will be minimised. Plopping a hired $1000 mic (or three) down on the stage (on stands) may be all that is required, unless anybody else can comment on up-to-date classical recording techniques.

      Without reading TFA I would confidently predict that the recordings will be made available in (at least) high quality Ogg V

  • by phiz187 (533366) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:14PM (#33553220) Homepage Journal
    Under U.S. law, these commissioned works won't be in the public domain. There is no way to "create" a work into the public domain. Work only enters the public domain upon expiration of the copyright term. (The one way to create a work into the public domain, is that governmental works are not subject to copyright.)

    What the project can do is create a contractual license that says that all-comers are granted a perpetual, non-exclusive license. Even then, presumably the resulting works would be works of joint authorship [university...fornia.edu], with copyright residing in all of the authors. And under the reversion provisions [wired.com] of US copyright law, those orchestra members, or their families, could have the licenses terminated after about 30 years.
  • by jensend (71114) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:23PM (#33554396)
    The donations are now nearly up to $25000- that could be doubled if people vote for Musopen [refresheverything.com] in Pepsi's "Refresh Project."
  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:56PM (#33554764) Journal
    I thought there was an extensive library of high-quality copyright-free classical music recorded by Soviet, Eastern-bloc, and Chinese orchestras prior to 1989. None of those countries were Berne Convention signatories at the time and no copyright was ever claimed nor desired since they were "the people's" orchestras performing for the people. If I remember correctly, Muzak used to use Czech orchestral performances as they were copyright-free in the 70s and 80s. Why not use those recordings?

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