Monday, April 02, 2007

Guitar Tabs are Back

The online tablature business was effectively shut down this past summer as the Music Publishers Association and the Harry Fox Agency under copyright claims that they had the exclusive rights to reproduce music online. Online tablature is back now as the copyright dilemma has been solved. Musicnotes, the largest publisher of sheet music that also purchased MxTabs a while back, has struck a licensing deal that will allow MxTabs to return sometime this summer.

The licensing deal provides that Harry Fox and Musicnotes will share the ad revenue from the site, ensuring that Harry Fox gets paid, presumably to funnel that money back to its artists (though there is no mention of whether the licensing money will make it back to the artists themselves).

Most interesting, however, is that the deal adopts an opt-in approach where tabs will only be put up on MxTabs after individual artists have assented to the tablature of their music being posted. This necessarily means that the selection on MxTabs will be spotty, unless Harry Fox is able to get agreements from its artists by the time the site opens. Nevertheless, some artists will be left out as it seems improbable that Harry Fox will be able to reach agreements with all of the artists whose music was on MxTabs prior to its closing last summer.

Of course, this opt-in approach is precisely what Google is fighting against in its negotiations with the Author's Guild over book search. Now that the MPA and Harry Fox have established an opt-in system for tab, surely the Author's Guild will use this to support its position that an opt-in system is both preferable and an adequate solution to copyright problems associated with indexing collections of copyrighted material.
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