Keeping tabs on guitarists

The IPKat thanks his friend Miri Frankel once again (as well as Tun Zaw Mra, who emailed him on this very subject last week), for this feature in the New York Times on tablature sites. These are websites where guitarists exchange tips on how to play their favourite tunes rather than how they can download them for free., Music Publishers’ Association and the National Music Publishers’ Association (both of the USA) are reported to have closed down several websites or have pressured them to remove allegedly infringing tabs, but users have quickly migrated to other sites. The publishers share royalties with composers when customers buy sheet music or books of guitar tablature; they maintain that tablature postings are protected by copyright laws because the postings represent “derivative works” that are related to the original compositions.

The IPKat would not like to see composers of guitar music vilified by virtue of the fact that they have such big, powerful friends as the MPA and the NMPA. Many of them would be unable to afford to enforce their copyright, which is why they rely on collecting societies to do their dirty work for them. The fact that serious and sincere tab-seeking guitar players have a more attractive profile than rampant P2P file-sharers, and do a lot less economic damage, should not be allowed to prevent composers of guitar music getting their due too. However, sites that genuinely discuss guitar playing techniques should not be browbeaten into submission: the more people there out there playing the guitar, the more people are likely to buy sheet music and the more money composers and their publishers will make.

Merpel adds, sheet music is hardly a big money-earner these days anyway: why publish the stuff at all, if you can't sell the guitar music that's unpopular and you can't stop free and easy copying of the stuff that is popular? An afterthought: presumably a non-copied, original tablature should be capable of gaining protection in its own right - but what sort of author's work is it? It's not actually the music but a way of playing the music. Does that make it a literary work? Or a dramatic work since its virtue is in the way something is physically done?

While My Guitar Gently Weeps here
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama here
Ziggy Stardust played guitar here
KEEPING TABS ON GUITARISTS KEEPING TABS ON GUITARISTS Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 Rating: 5

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