Recently, Musescore.com users have noticed an increase in the number of scores blocked on the website. This is due to the requests of the copyright holders who own and control the rights to these songs. We fully understand your frustration and inconvenience, and we would like to tell you a few words about our attitude towards the situation and what we are doing to fix it.
Back in 2017, when Ultimate Guitar acquired Musescore, it was questionable whether Musescore was going to be allowed to continue its operations. Copyright holders, music trade associations and governments were aggressively working to shut down the website entirely.
However, because Ultimate Guitar had decades of experience in solving such problems and strong working relationships with right holders, it was confident that it could solve this problem. Ultimate Guitar created the concept of licensing tabs and felt that it could also solve the problem of licensing sheet music. Twenty years ago, right holders and governments were able to shut down almost every other guitar tab website, but Ultimate Guitar and its founder were able to accomplish something that was impossible - to make thousands of deals with songwriters and publishers to legalize Ultimate Guitar. Thanks to Ultimate Guitar, the guitar tablature market has become fully digital with every subsequent website following the model created by Ultimate Guitar.
After Ultimate Guitar acquired Musescore, we faced the necessity to once again negotiate license agreements with songwriters and music publishers. For the right holders, the market of scores is even more complex than the market of guitar tabs; there are many players who make money on score sales and are not ready to distribute them in an ad-supported model.
The current sheet music market has a simple model: either sell scores by the piece or grant access by subscription. This is why ad-supported access to scores often causes misunderstanding and rejection from the copyright owners. It’s just too innovative for the current market.
There are quite a lot of right holders and all of them have different attitudes towards the licensing of these rights. In some cases, it causes certain difficulties. Example: at this point, we have no right to publish scores related to certain popular films and some songs by a few major rock stars. There is one main reason for this, songwriters and publishers expect to be fairly paid for their songs, rewarded economically. Musescore must respect their position.
Right now we are actively negotiating with right holders, and we have made great progress. We have already reached agreements with almost 1500 music publishers, including almost all of the major music publishers, and every day we are working on licensing more content.
The biggest obstacle we have faced so far is our goal to keep the content free for download. We tried to find various solutions to this problem, but unfortunately, all options related to the free distribution of content are problematic for the copyright holders and artists. It’s the main reason for scores to get blocked.
This is why from now on the option to download scores in any format is no longer free.
We, as a company, strongly promote and support the open digital world and the free distribution of information. But we also respect the right of the artists for their work and livelihood. Without songwriters and artists, there is no music.
Why do we have to take this step? First of all, it will bring us closer to the model to which the current market is accustomed. At the same time, we will still have very flexible conditions for working with content. For example, the fact that we are the only ones who give access to digital files, which was and still is our most popular "feature".
Among other things, this step will reduce the amount of plagiarism and unfair downloads of your scores on the website.
We will continue to work with the right holders, and try to achieve more favorable license terms and hope that the current state of things will not be final.
This step will allow us to speed up the negotiation process and keep your work safe. We also hope to unblock the scores that have been blocked from the website earlier.
Author's original works and compositions from Public Domain
At the moment, unfortunately, we do not have a trustworthy tool to distinguish songs under copyright from songs available for distribution. It's a big problem we're working on. The value of our product lies in such scores and the authors of this content are very important for us. The current situation promises to be a major boost for development. We made a lot of effort recently to improve the catalog/listing of the website. We will now focus on working with independent authors and users who work with Public Domain music. We will release updates in the near future that will allow to open original scores to everyone.
We ask you to be patient with this process. Most likely we will need a lot of help from the community in order to be able to move forward and contribute to the free distribution of digital music in every way possible.