Dear International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Contributors, Users and Supporters:
I really tried.
What follows in this open letter is what I hope will be an accurate reflection of my tumultuous thoughts in the past few days.
On Saturday October 13, 2007, I received a second Cease and Desist letter from Universal Edition. At first I thought this letter would be similar in content to the first Cease and Desist letter I received in August. However, after lengthy discussions with very knowledgeable lawyers and supporters, I became painfully aware of the fact that I, a normal college student, has neither the energy nor the money necessary to deal with this issue in any other way than to agree with the cease and desist, and take down the entire site. I cannot apologize enough to all IMSLP contributors, who have done so much for IMSLP in the last two years.
I also understand very well that the cease and desist letter does not call for a take down of the entire site, but, as I said above, I very unfortunately simply do not have the energy or money necessary to implement the terms in the cease and desist in any other way. Prior to this cease and desist I was already overloaded with server maintenance and the implementation of new features (as some of you know). I do not intend this to be an excuse in any way, but I do hope that IMSLP users and contributors may understand, even if very slightly. At the same time, I again apologize profusely to all IMSLP contributors that it has come down to this.
Another major reason behind me taking the server down is the fact, which I have been made painfully aware of in the last few days, that I can no longer support IMSLP adequately. Rather than limping along and having to take down the site later on, I believe it is best to take the site down right now, so as to not waste the further efforts of IMSLP contributors.
I have to thank here the great efforts on the part of two outstanding university law teams with regard to this case, and the very helpful advice and assistance that I have received pro bono. I cannot imagine what I would be like right now without their legal and moral understanding and support.
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Since this open letter will be all that is left of IMSLP, I would like to explain here my original purpose and vision in the creation of IMSLP, because I do not think I ever told this to any IMSLP contributor (except one librarian who asked a long time ago).
I originally conceived of this project after visiting a certain country a few years ago. In what is one of the largest bookstores there, I discovered less than ten orchestral scores. As a musician and music lover, I find unacceptable the fact that such a wonderful thing as music can be so inaccessible in certain regions of the world. I believe that access to our culture and the Arts is a fundamental right of every human being, and not simply a privilege. Therefore, I had created IMSLP with the intention that music, which is in the public domain, should be freely accessible to every single person.
And it is solely for this purpose that I have spent so much time, money and energy in creating and maintaining the IMSLP. I have paid all the server bills myself, and have not received a single penny for anything I have done in relation to the IMSLP. I am not saying this so people may pity me, but just to put to rest any concern that I had any ulterior motive in the creation of the IMSLP.
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I owe a great debt to all IMSLP contributors and users. At the beginning of IMSLP, I would have never imagined in my dreams the amount of dedication and love of music which drove IMSLP contributors to spent countless hours on IMSLP promoting music, making IMSLP the biggest online public domain music score library in less than two years. You are among people with the most passion for music that I have met in my life.
Be proud. Be proud that you were a contributor of the IMSLP. Regardless of what happens, I refuse to believe that the vision of the IMSLP, and what you did for that vision, was wrong. I hereby give you the right to curse me and flame me as a failed project leader.
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So what happens now?
I will keep the IMSLP forums online for as long as there is interest. You may access it at imslpforums.org.
I will release the IMSLP Mediawiki extensions to the public in the hopes that other people will find them useful. I will also prepare a copy of the IMSLP Mediawiki database (i.e. the text on the site), with private information removed, and send it to anyone who requests. The IMSLP extensions are licensed under the GPL, and the IMSLP Mediawiki database is licensed under the GFDL. This letter itself is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
In addition, I will be willing to help and transfer the five IMSLP domain names to any organization who would like to continue IMSLP in some form or other; please contact me via gro.plsmi|plsmi#gro.plsmi|plsmi if you are interested.
If you have any questions or comments for me regarding IMSLP or this situation, please send an e-mail to gro.plsmi|plsmi#gro.plsmi|plsmi, and I will try to answer all of them. You may also use the forums if you believe that the question can be answered by other IMSLP contributors. Translations of this letter are very much welcome; you may post them on the forums, and I will move them to the main site.
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In closing, I would like to give my uttermost thanks to people who have helped IMSLP in the past two years. I say this in no particular order.
I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP moderation team. You did all the grunt and janitorial work that kept IMSLP running so smoothly for almost two years.
I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP copyright review team. You have done way more than enough, and this incident at hand is in no way due to any fault on your part.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in redesigning the IMSLP website. Without you, it would have been impossible for a HTML-illiterate person like me to bring IMSLP to anywhere near the prettiness and ease of use that the final IMSLP website was. It is a great pity that IMSLP v0.5 was stillborn; it held the results of your recent labours.
I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP translation team for tirelessly translating IMSLP into eleven different languages so that IMSLP can be useful to many more people.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in the IMSLP official projects for being a main driving force behind IMSLP. The project to make available the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe properly categorized and in its entirety, which was almost finished with one book to go (out of 46), will I am sure be sorely missed.
I would like to thank everyone else who contributed to IMSLP. You were and will always be part of the soul of IMSLP.
I would like to thank my host iWeb8 for the great experience I've had with them. Without them IMSLP would have not been possible. I strongly recommend them for anyone who is looking for hosting.
I would like to thank the Lighttpd development team and the Debian project, among many others, who write and provide great free software that was able to withstand a beating and then some.
I would like to thank the Mediawiki development team, not only for making a project such as Wikipedia (and, of course, IMSLP) possible, but also for writing very pretty and extensible code. I still throw fits after looking at the parser, but that is probably my fault.
I would like to thank all the libraries and educational institutions who have shown great interest in IMSLP. I am very sorry this has not worked out, but I was very happy for your support.
Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who promoted IMSLP on blogs and forums; I check the referrals every once in a while, and am always very happy when I read about someone finding IMSLP useful for them.
And to everyone who have helped IMSLP and me over the past two years, I am forever in your debt.
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Let me end by quoting Vershinin in Chekhov's play Three Sisters:
"And I wish I could make you understand that there is no happiness for us, that there should not and cannot be. … We must only work and work, and happiness is only for our distant posterity. If not for me, then for the descendants of my descendants." (thanks Project Gutenberg)
May we meet again under happier circumstances then.
Former project leader of the IMSLP