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Guitartabs.com Suspends Under Legal Pressure 348

Posted by kdawson
from the not-another-mpaa dept.
Music publishers are stepping up their campaign to remove guitar tablature from the Net. Recently Guitartabs.com received a nastygram from lawyers for the National Music Publishers Association and The Music Publishers Association of America. These organizations want to stretch the definition of their intellectual property to include by-ear transcriptions of music. Guitartabs.com is currently not offering tablature while the owner evaluates his legal options.
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Guitartabs.com Suspends Under Legal Pressure

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  • Stairway (Score:5, Funny)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus&hotmail,com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:03PM (#19372573) Homepage
    No stairway. Denied!
    • Re:Stairway (Score:5, Informative)

      by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:39PM (#19372919) Homepage Journal
      Moderators: this is an on-topic reference to Wayne's World, where one of the two of them picks up a guitar in the shop and starts playing the famous PbZ song.
      Store worker yanks the guitar from (Wayne, IIRC?), points to a sign posted that says "No Stairway", at which point Wayne and Garth look at each other and say "Denied".
      They would have gotten away with it, too, if not for the meddling employee!
      • Re:Stairway (Score:4, Funny)

        by Xinef Jyinaer (1044268) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:06PM (#19373143)
        ..... PbZ, now I really feel like a fucking nerd.
      • Re:Stairway (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:08PM (#19374265) Homepage
        Not only that, but the first five notes of Stairway to Heaven were only played in the theatrical release. Due to the sorts of copyright rulings that drove guitartabs.com off the internet, the producers of Waynes World were forced to change the riff for all subsequent releases.

        • Re:Stairway (Score:5, Interesting)

          by anticypher (48312) <anticypher@@@gmail...com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:04PM (#19375135) Homepage
          By the time "Wayne's World" made it to Europe (2 weeks after its release in the U.S.), that scene had him play a single note. Even though that note starts off many rock songs, it was enough for the store employee to deny Wayne the pleasure.

          I had so much sympathy for the guitar shop employee. Imagine every wanna-be rocker coming in to try to play Stairway, butchering it every single time. The whole idea of a single note being enough to identify the song was at the same time good for a laugh, and scary to think that American copyright law kept the film makers from using more than a one note before violating the law.

          the AC
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BillX (307153)
      Yikes, this makes two consecutive stories [slashdot.org] where this post would be entirely on-topic and +5 Funny.
    • Re:Stairway (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jarik_Tentsu (1065748) on Monday June 04, 2007 @01:10AM (#19377631)
      I am in a band and Guitar Pro 4/5 has always proved invaluable to us. Back when www.mysongbook.com allowed you to actually download all their tabs, it was easy to find a good, high quality tab for whatever song we were covering. All of our compositions are also made in Guitar Pro and spread to each of the band members - both for the ability of being able to listen to a theoretical version of the song, and being able to convey our ideas to the other members better.

      This was in no way making us money, or losing any money for the record companies. We weren't choosing to listen to Midis over buying CDs or anything like that. Oh sure, you can argue maybe we were abstaining from buying sheet music over using the tabs, but at the same time - most of what we played did not have sheet music transcriptions for all instruments.

      And being able to have your song in tab notation, sheet music notation and have it playable as a Midi (for all instruments) is a lot more useful than just having the sheet music for one instrument in a book.

      With mysongbook.com down, not only are tabs a lot harder to find, but it's harder to find the higher quality ones, or ones that include all instruments (instead of just guitars+bass).

      This is nothing but greed - record companies trying to work out if they can make money off tabs...and until they can work that out, banning any other distributions all together.

      ~Jarik
  • IP issues. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:04PM (#19372575)
    First of all, I'm against the whole 'I thought of it first so I have the only rights to it forever' thing.

    But if a song is IP, why does it matter how it was copied? Copying it by looking at the paper, or copying by listening... It only takes a more talented individual.

    It's like saying that it's legal to copy DVDs, but only if you're talented enough to crack the encryption yourself, with no help.

    It either IS or IS NOT legal to copy it, there should be no 'only if by this method' BS.
    • Fair use. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:09PM (#19372625)
      What's the difference between listening to a song so you can guess at the tablature and publishing that
      and
      Reading a book so you can publish a review (with spoilers and character names)?

      You cannot use those characters in your own book without licensing them. You cannot use that tablature in your own song without licensing it.

      This is about personal, private usage.
      • Reverse Engineering (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Vicissidude (878310) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:19PM (#19372717)
        They listened to the song and wrote down the notes for the separate instruments. That appears more like reverse engineering to me, which IS legal.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Planesdragon (210349)
          That appears more like reverse engineering to me, which IS legal.

          In and of itself, for an in-house project? Sure. If it's patented it needs to be in the patent description, so fuddling around to better understand that patent (so you can use it the day it expires) is fine. If it's just copyritten, the ideas therein aren't protected.

          But by and large, writing down the fingerings of a song isn't going after ideas -- it's going after the specific collection of them. It's like, as I say elsewhere, writing dow
          • by Vicissidude (878310) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:58PM (#19373621)
            It's like, as I say elsewhere, writing down the script of a play. Or to be /.ish, decompiling the source code of a compiled program.

            No, I don't buy it. Writing down the script of the play would give you the exact script. However, a song is a human interpretation of written music, much like a binary is a computer translation of source code. The difference is that humans do not perform exactly what is written, while computers do. Further, other humans attempting to reverse-engineer the written music from the performance would also not transcribe the exact music as it was played. So, like the old game of "telephone" with one person whispering to another person, to yet another person, and then trying to figure out the original message, no transcription of a performance is going to get you the music as it was originally written. You would have a parody of the original written music - similar, but not quite exact.

            parody (pr'-d) n., pl. -dies. [answers.com]
            3. Music. The practice of reworking an already established composition, especially the incorporation into the Mass of material borrowed from other works, such as motets or madrigals.

            And of course, parody is protected under copyright law.
            • by buswolley (591500) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @08:02PM (#19375601) Journal
              Furthermore, the very process of listening to music involves the transcription, transformation, and interpretation of the music.

              The brain is identifying the tonal root, rhythm, chords, and the relations between chords. Is this illegal also? Is it illegal to tell your band buddy: Hey did you hear that? That was an awesome change to the parallel key when they went from the A to the C chord? Silly stuff.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by EaglemanBSA (950534)
              I agree - it's as if someone looks at the Mona Lisa, enjoys it, and thus paints their own version. Knowing the picture, even down to its minutest details, is in no way an infringement of the original artist's rights. If they don't want their art emulated, they shouldn't put it out for the masses to enjoy.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Mozk (844858)
                That's a somewhat bad analogy. The Mona Lisa painting is in the public domain, so you can copy it and basically do whatever you want with your copy.

                Imagine going to an artist's gallery, and you see a well-done drawing and decide to sit there and draw it yourself. The artist would probably yell at you, and the legality of copying it like that is probably in a sort of grey-area, depending on how you intend to use it. However, you can't go and make copies then go selling them to people or places... He solely h
      • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:22PM (#19372753) Homepage
        What's the difference between listening to a song so you can guess at the tablature and publishing that ... This is about personal, private usage.

        "Publishing" is not "personal, private usage". Fair use is not republishing. Fair use is sitting in your personal space looking at the tablature and playing. It probably includes looking at your tablature and performing it in a public venue with the appropriate payments made to whatever organization "collects" the performance royalties. However publishing that tablature on the web (distribution) is something entirely different. I *am not* saying it is something bad, just that it is something that is not fair use.
        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#19372927)

          "Publishing" is not "personal, private usage". Fair use is not republishing. Fair use is sitting in your personal space looking at the tablature and playing.

          In that case, no book reviews or movie reviews or any other review would ever be legal without express permission.

          I can publish a movie review complete with character names, plot and spoilers.

          You can read my movie review and write your own, private, screen play with that same plot and characters and events.

          Two examples of "fair use".
          • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:45PM (#19372987) Homepage
            ""Publishing" is not "personal, private usage". Fair use is not republishing. Fair use is sitting in your personal space looking at the tablature and playing."

            In that case, no book reviews or movie reviews or any other review would ever be legal without express permission.


            That is a straw man argument. It is also severely flawed on its face, reviews contain excerpts not the entire work.
            • They're just chords. Not the song, not the individual notes, not the lyrics, not the melody, not the rhythm, just the chord sequences. It's up to the person playing the instrument to fill in the missing pieces to make it sound like the song they want. To carry the movie analogy, it's not even like excerpting parts of the movie and publishing it. It's like summarizing the movie and publishing that: Killer hunts girl, girl thinks boy is killer, boy saves girl from killer, boy and girl flee killer, boy di
              • by babyrat (314371)
                I don't think you understand what tabs are - most tabs include the chord progressions and the exact notes being played by the guitarist (or guitarists) in the background, the cool little riffs and sometimes entire solo's.

                I'm in no way agreeing that listening to a song, and telling a friend (or a million friends) that 'these are the notes that guy played, in this order' is wrong (or illegal), just that your description of what is being removed is wrong.

        • I was under the impression that one of the key points of fair use was for criticism and parody.. both forms of "republishing" as you describe it. Fair use doctrine does look favorably on uses which are "personal" and "private" but that is hardly the whole story.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I was under the impression that one of the key points of fair use was for criticism and parody.. both forms of "republishing" as you describe it.

            I'm not sure how that is relevant. Reviews contain excerpts not the entire work, and guitartabs was publishing neither reviews nor parodies. It essentially publishes a form of sheet music.
      • What's the difference between listening to a song so you can guess at the tablature and publishing that
        and
        Reading a book so you can publish a review (with spoilers and character names)?

        A matter of appropriate metaphor. A song is a perforamnce -- there is a copyright both on the actual sound produced and the original sheet music. Re-creating the sheet music is closer to watching a play, and writing your own line-pages for a production.

        (And, FWIW, a review is a derivative work only allowable via Fair Use. Hew close enough to be derivitive (names, plots, et al) and use them in a way that isn't Fair Use (like, oh, making an RPG) and you'll get slapped with a lawsuit.)

      • Re:Fair use. (Score:5, Informative)

        by stinerman (812158) <nathan.stine@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:41PM (#19372945) Homepage
        It is bleedingly obvious that tablature is made and distributed for scholarship. In fact, I was attempting to teach my self how to play bass guitar. I got relatively good at it until the tab sites started shutting down. Now I haven't practiced in months.

        The sheet music publishers need to get over themselves. People who want to casually learn to play an instrument aren't going to go and pay hundreds of dollars for lessons and buy the sheet music of their favorite artists.

        The really sad thing is that these lawsuits are killing what copyright was designed to protect, promotion of the arts.
        • Re:Fair use. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by shark72 (702619) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:12PM (#19373191)

          "It is bleedingly obvious that tablature is made and distributed for scholarship. In fact, I was attempting to teach my self how to play bass guitar. I got relatively good at it until the tab sites started shutting down. Now I haven't practiced in months."

          While you make some good points, I think you go too far in inferring that the copyright holders' defending of their rights is to blame for your not practicing.

          I learned to play guitar in the days before the Internet. I did so using books of songs. I had a Beatles songbook that probably cost all of $10, and similar collections. They did just fine in giving me songs to learn to play. On occasion I would buy the sheet music for one particular song -- at two or three bucks, it was not a bargain compared to the collections -- but it was not a financial hardship.

          "The sheet music publishers need to get over themselves. People who want to casually learn to play an instrument aren't going to go and pay hundreds of dollars for lessons and buy the sheet music of their favorite artists."

          Paying for lessons and buying sheet music aren't linked. One can do one, the other, or both. Sheet music is readily available pretty cheaply; this is unrelated to the cost of lessons.

          "The really sad thing is that these lawsuits are killing what copyright was designed to protect, promotion of the arts."

          The music publishers are doing this because they want to launch their own ad-supported sites with tabs, lyrics, and sheet music. Keep in mind that music publishers are very often the composers and lyricists themselves; with few exceptions, composers and lyricists get a much bigger piece of the pie vs. CD sales, and the revenue stream for music publishing typically bypasses the record company altogether -- and this is a good thing. We talk about ways to support the artists without supporting the record companies... this is a great way to do it.

          Here's how it works out for supporting the composers and lyricists for the various methods of getting your sheet music and tabs:

          • Using an ad-supported lyric/tab site sanctioned and operated by the publisher: the composer and lyricist make money.
          • Buying sheet music or tabs the old fashioned way: the composer and lyricist make money.
          • Using an unauthorized ad-supported site like guitartabs: The webmaster (who likely has no relation to the composer and lyricist) makes money. The composer and lyricist make doodley squat fuck all.

          Now, back to guitartabs. Here we have the situation of a third party (the webmaster) making money off of somebody else's work even though they were not part of the creative process. This is exactly why we hate the record companies, because they do something very similar.

          If you want to support artists, that's great -- I agree with you 100%. Why not buy the sheet music and tabs you want, or wait and use the tab/lyric sites operated by the publishers themselves? That way, you support the artists, not some guy who's making a living by making unauthorized copies of others' work.

          Your support of guitartabs sounds similar to the common rationale for P2Ping music -- sure, the artist doesn't make any money, but you are "supporting" the artist by reproducing their work. I think a majority of artists would agree that financial support is better.

          • by stinerman (812158)
            Oh, my no means am I putting the blame on anyone else. If I was really adamant I'd find a way. My point was that people like me aren't going to buy sheet music, and we are the people who tabs are aimed at.

            It'd be like if the vast majority of people who use P2P illegally would not buy the song if it wasn't available for free. Casual players like myself aren't going to buy the sheet music.

            With regards to ad-supported tabs at an official website: that is a great idea and I'm 100% behind that. I don't know
          • Re:Fair use. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by leathered (780018) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @04:06PM (#19373685)
            Why not buy the sheet music and tabs you want, or wait and use the tab/lyric sites operated by the publishers themselves? That way, you support the artists, not some guy who's making a living by making unauthorized copies of others' work.

            Most of the sheet music and tabs I want aren't available for purchase anywhere, yet they're still subject to takedown notices on every tab site I know. So please tell exactly what am I to do in this situation?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by value_added (719364)
            Why not buy the sheet music and tabs you want, or wait and use the tab/lyric sites operated by the publishers themselves?

            Judging from your story about buying a Beatles song book for $10 bucks, I know that you really haven't grasped the issue at hand, and don't play much guitar.

            Sheet music is mostly written for piano. It represents a sort of lowest common denominator transcription of the music, like Muzak for singalongs. Guitar "song books" are much the same, but have guitar chords added. You think eithe
          • Why do the "authorized" publishers of the guitar tab feel they *must* shut down the other sites before they can be successful with a new venture, publishing them online themselves?

            For starters, a lot of tab out there is really poor. Very inaccurate, or only partial tabs - made by some kid who wanted to share the fact that he "finally figured out the guitar chords for the first chorus" or what-not. If I can choose between one of these "unofficial" tab collection sites, or a real, "authorized" one that's st
    • Re:IP issues. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by multisync (218450) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:18PM (#19372709) Journal

      But if a song is IP, why does it matter how it was copied?


      Shall we outlaw whistling next?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Frosty Piss (770223)

        Shall we outlaw whistling next?

        Maybe. If you do it for cash, yes. Tab sites are commercial enterprises (note the banner ads). See this: http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.asp [snopes.com].

        • Re:IP issues. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by multisync (218450) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:10PM (#19373181) Journal
          That site may very well be a commercial enterprise. Other [olga.net] sites were communities of music lovers, who learned from and shared with each other. I have no doubt we are depriving some deserving collection of investors and speculators of their income by giving away our derivative works for free, just as I am no doubt stealing from someone by simply teaching my neice how to play the intro to Purple Haze.

          So to expand on my last post, be careful what you whistle. Some day soon, someone may come along and tell you that you that you owe them a royalty for that performance of their intellectual property.
      • by Wayne247 (183933) <slashdot@laurent.ca> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#19372929) Homepage
        It is, isn't it?

        I mean, I can't even sign "Happy birthday!" to my kid, I have to use some open-source song such as "Today is the anniversary of your birth!" with similar hooks, but not quite.

        Thank you very much, copyright laws. You've made our world a better place!
      • If someone expects to make money from whistling someone else's song (either through direct sales or advertising space), then sure, go after them.
    • by tverbeek (457094)
      Copying is copying, whether you do it digitally, mechanically, or "by hand/eye/ear". If I copy a copyright-protected painting "by eye" and duplicate it on canvas "by hand", I'm still copying it. I'm just doing it the hard way. If I took that copy and published prints of it, that'd be an obvious copyright infringement. So why would copying a composition "by ear" - and then publishing the result - be any different?

      I can see why somebody might think that copyright law doesn't cover derivative works like
    • > But if a song is IP, why does it matter how it was copied? Copying it by looking at the paper, or copying by listening...

      It has come to our attention that your brain makes available so-called "remembered" versions of copyrighted musical compositions owned or controlled by members of the NMPA and MPA, without permission from the publishers.

      The versions of these publishers' musical works that you store in your brain are not exempt under copyright law. In fact, U.S. copyright law specifically provide
    • ...is not to publish the individual notes themselves. Instead, just post the chord changes. Chord changes can NOT be copy-written or is there protection.

      Nothing fancy. For instance, here is the chord changes for "Hey Joe". C-G-D-A-E......there, come arrest me.

      That's the chord changes, then it's up to the musician to listen to how Jimi Hendrix did it inside of those chord changes when he made his cover of the song....which is actually better than to read a transcription anyway as if you figure it out for you
      • What if some insane person did the transcription and he totally put the wrong notes in for the tab? Can they sue for that?

        Maybe post the tab, but everything is transcribed one note up.

        I mean, how far can they go? What if there's a post somewhere discussing Zeppelins "The Rain Song" and it's weird DGCGCD (which I think is the tuning for electric, a slightly different tuning goes for acoustic) tuning, can they go after them as well, because in that tuning, the guitar practically plays the song itself. I mean,
    • by pla (258480)
      It's like saying that it's legal to copy DVDs, but only if you're talented enough to crack the encryption yourself, with no help.

      Not quite - More like saying that you and your friends can legally film yourselves doing a reproduction of a movie on DVD, purely for noncommercial use.

      Which you can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DannyO152 (544940)

      Guitar tabs aren't copying. It's a transcription and summary created by someone who knows the notation and can ascertain an approximation of what happened.

      So what about Cliff's Notes? Outlines? Chord charts? Sentence diagrams? Sitting down and listening to the record over and over to figure out the lyric?

      The record company has copyrighted the recording. The songwriter has copyrighted the melody and lyrics. The publisher has control over sheet music. Is the arrangement copyrightable? Nope. The 16 bar blues

  • by cWolfe (1098125)
    As far as I can tell, if I transcribe a song into tab, it is my work, not theirs. The IP was for the recodring of the song, so it's not RIA's property. Since, as I said before, I transcribed it myself, it is not their work (the publishers) but my own. How the f8ck can they assume they won everything? How do the artists feel about this?
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:08PM (#19372613) Homepage Journal
      Well, it's usually more the composer's copyright that is claimed to be violated.

      • by gfxguy (98788)
        I have mixed feelings about this.

        I've used those sites before, as an amateur. I understand much of the copyright law we have now dates from the time when sheet music was the only way to copy music. Back then, people would buy a single copy, and copy it note for note to another paper, and sell it.

        Now, I can see the point here, but people aren't copying published sheet music, they're creating tablature from memory. A lot of it isn't even right (they typically have ratings for accuracy).

        Obviously, if someon
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nomadic (141991)
      As far as I can tell, if I transcribe a song into tab, it is my work, not theirs.

      That doesn't make too much sense. I mean, if instead of photocopying an electronics schematic I manually draw a new one, with the original right there for reference, is that "my work"?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shinmai (632532)
        While I agree with you on a very basic level, your example is not quite right. By-ear tabulature would be like making an electronics schematic by dissasembling the finished product that the schematics describe.
    • by tinrobot (314936)
      From dictionary.com

      transcribe
      1. to make a written copy, esp. a typewritten copy, of (dictated material, notes taken during a lecture, or other spoken material).


      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/transcribe [reference.com]

      If you're good at transcribing, then by definition, it is a copy. Making copies is protected by copyright, that's why it's called a "copy-right".

      In other words, it's not yours and it's not an "original work"
    • by shark72 (702619)

      "How do the artists feel about this?"

      Remember, publishing rights is a great revenue stream for composers and lyricists... a revenue stream where they typically get a much bigger cut than via CD sales. And, in most cases (and this is the great part) the record companies don't see any of the money! You're right that it's not the RIAA's property... but we're not talking about record companies here.

      I guess we can take the position (and many do) that if an artist wants to make money off their work in any w

  • Appropriate response (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:06PM (#19372597) Homepage Journal

    I have long been of the understanding that an original, by-ear transcription of a song, which is a duplicate of no copyrighted work and which generally deviates substantially from the work on which it is based is the property of its transcriber, and not the original composer of the song. The NMPA and MPA clearly disagree, and are threatening to send a DMCA letter to my host, as well as pursue other undisclosed legal actions in the event that I were to fall short of full cooperation with their demands.

    I have not yet decided what response is appropriate.
    Ummmm.. the appropriate response is to forward their communications to your ISP and wait until they send the DMCA takedown. When they do, file the appropriate DMCA response outlining why the material isn't infringing. Your ISP simply cannot remove your material if you follow the procedure. Then, if they were doing anything more than bluffing, they will send you a proper cease and desist, which you can then choose to ignore, and, very unlikely now, wait until they file suit. All of this will take YEARS and cost them many hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees which I'm sure they'll quickly realize they can't recover from you, and, as such, they won't bother.

    Don't give in to bullies.. the law is on your side.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      When they do, file the appropriate DMCA response outlining why the material isn't infringing.

      Except that it clearly is. You can create sheet music based on copyrighted material and publish it, either. Sheet music publishing rights and performance recording rights are separate animals, but both have clear copyright protection.

      Even some anti-copyright people recognize that taking a book, making copies of it, and selling the copies is not really appropriate. This is exactly the same thing. Guitartabs.com

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515)
        Meh. That's for a court to decide.. which I'm pretty sure they have, and ruled in favor of the tabers, but I can't really back that up with the exact case, etc. Maybe someone can help me out. That's really not the point. The point is that it will cost these people a whole lot of money to stop you if you fight them.. and so long as you're not, oh, say, Google or Microsoft or someone, then it simply isn't in their interest.
      • by rhizome (115711)
        Except that it clearly is.

        Except that it clearly isn't clear that that's the case.
    • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:04PM (#19373129)
      Your ISP simply cannot remove your material if you follow the procedure.

      Yes, they can. What they lose if they do that is the DCMA's protection against a civil suit.

      The notion that if you follow the anti-takedown notice rules, the ISP is *prohibited* from removing the material in question is a popular one, but it's flat-out wrong:

      (g) Replacement of Removed or Disabled Material and Limitation on Other Liability.--
      (1) No liability for taking down generally.-- Subject to paragraph (2), a service provider shall not be liable to any person for any claim based on the service provider's good faith disabling of access to, or removal of, material or activity claimed to be infringing or based on facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent, regardless of whether the material or activity is ultimately determined to be infringing.
      (2) Exception.-- Paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to material residing at the direction of a subscriber of the service provider on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider that is removed, or to which access is disabled by the service provider, pursuant to a notice provided under subsection (c)(1)(C), unless the service provider--
      (A) takes reasonable steps promptly to notify the subscriber that it has removed or disabled access to the material;
      (B) upon receipt of a counter notification described in paragraph (3), promptly provides the person who provided the notification under subsection (c)(1)(C) with a copy of the counter notification, and informs that person that it will replace the removed material or cease disabling access to it in 10 business days; and
      (C) replaces the removed material and ceases disabling access to it not less than 10, nor more than 14, business days following receipt of the counter notice, unless its designated agent first receives notice from the person who submitted the notification under subsection (c)(1)(C) that such person has filed an action seeking a court order to restrain the subscriber from engaging in infringing activity relating to the material on the service provider's system or network.


  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#19372601) Journal
    The letter essentially says "Die. Now." And faced with overwhelming force, that's just what guitartabs.com did. The ugliest part of the letter, though, is probably this:

    "Under the circumstances, both the transcriber of the compositions and you as the owner of the website are copyright infringers."

    And they're right. Under copyright law, merely transcribing a song by ear (even without sending it to a website) is copyright infringement. Specifically, unauthorized creation of a derivative work. That is an illustration of how nasty and flawed the entire system of copyright is.

    • by spiritraveller (641174) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:50PM (#19373035)
      And they're right. Under copyright law, merely transcribing a song by ear (even without sending it to a website) is copyright infringement. Specifically, unauthorized creation of a derivative work. That is an illustration of how nasty and flawed the entire system of copyright is.

      Transcribing a song for your own study and private performance is covered under the Fair Use exception. Publishing it is not.

      The rights owner can prevent others from publishing an exact copy or a derivative work. That's what makes a copyright valuable. Publishing a composition in a different notation style is still publishing the composition.

      Sure it's sad that there isn't another source for these tablatures. Maybe the publishers are thinking of getting into the tablature business. Maybe they are just really short-sighted and think that they can force people to buy the standard notation versions. Maybe the publishing companies will suffer by doing this. But that is their prerogative.
    • by KKlaus (1012919)
      >>That is an illustration of how nasty and flawed the entire system of copyright is.

      Why can't we think in terms other than black and white when it comes to copyright here? That's really an example of how the _entire system_ is flawed? Or maybe just that part. An overly broad and abusive definition of derivative works being used to the detriment of society is not an indictment of copyright as a whole, and you shouldn't try to make it one. It's an indictment of overly broad and abusive definitions o
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cardpuncher (713057)
      Actually, the specific example of transcription-by-ear is one of the reasons there was great pressure to develop international copyright law.

      In the 19th Century, authors and producers of popular musical entertainment (such as, at the time, Gilbert & Sullivan) had to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent "entrepreneurial" productions of their works appearing on the American stage within weeks of the London production as a result of transcribers busily noting down the entire work in the audience - the Vi
  • WTF??? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:11PM (#19372639)
    National Music Publishers Association?

    The Music Publishers Association of America???

    Isn't the RIAA enough??

    You Americans hate music... huh?
  • by musikit (716987) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:11PM (#19372641)
    guitartabs.com was just a large ad circle and never really brought you to much music. thank you RIAA/DMCA. now google will stop listing guitartabs.com as the highest rated response when i look for music
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by multisync (218450)
      Unfortuantely, they've already taken out the Online Guitar Archive [olga.net], and more sites will go down now because of this.

      If you enjoy downloading tabs off the net to learn new songs, this is not good news.
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        torrents. if they can't stop full albums at 320k mp3 or FLAC there is no way they will be able to shut down tab torrents. smaller files mean things like proxies are far more feasable.
  • Evolving definitions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:13PM (#19372667) Journal
    Are we to believe that there has been some new revolution in the ability of a musician to transcribe things by ear? Why would this longstanding exemption suddenly need changing? hmmm... perhaps Greed? Face it the only reason people are going to by a tabliture of your damn song is if they are a FAN. So they probably already own the album and love the song. They are just still developing as a musician and need the help of the more talented musicians at guitartabs to help them figure out how to play this song that they love. That is something to be encouraged if you want your music to have influence and you want to nuture growing musicians. The whole point of music copywright is to foster a good environment for new works. Or at least it used to be, but I guess that is an outdated idea this days.
    • Are we to believe that there has been some new revolution in the ability of a musician to transcribe things by ear? Why would this longstanding exemption suddenly need changing?

      That is a misrepresentation, a straw man. Transcribing is not the issue. Publishing the transcription, in effect republishing the original artist's work, is the issue.

      hmmm... perhaps Greed?

      Who's greed? The greed of the owner of the copyrighted work who wishes to control publication or the greed of the web site operator who
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        People have been selling "fake books" for decades. http://www.sheetmusic1.com/fakebook.ultimate.html [sheetmusic1.com] With all the tools to make something very similar to the copywrighted songs. If I make a painting that looks very similar to the Mona Lisa, I can't sell it? It's not like I'm claiming that it is The Mona Lisa, it's just something similar. http://www.nextag.com/mona-lisa-painting/search-ht ml [nextag.com]

        Publishing the transcription, in effect republishing the original artist's work, is the issue.

        It's just as arguea
        • by clifyt (11768)
          And the Fakebooks go out of their way to make certain that it is fair use. No lyrics, no nothing. Sometimes they won't even state the name of the band -- you can't copyright a title though, and thus you can get away with that.

          A lot of fakebooks anymore are becoming 'authorized' fakes...they do it in the style of the old ways with just chords and adding the lyrics and band names through permission.

          I'm a little mixed on this sort of stuff. Back before I was an academic (and technically anytime someone actu
  • MPA win anyway (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JamesRose (1062530)
    Certainly I think it is important to raise the issue of this bullying, and misuse of the law. However, this is certainly not the first example of them doing this, surely it is in the tablature websites' interests to create their own not-for-profit organisation to defend themselves. Anyway, As far as I can see, the huge amount of time the lawsuits take, and assuming the site takes down the offending material during it, the MPA has won anyway, no income for years, loss of all their users, and possible loss of
  • by shawn443 (882648) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:14PM (#19372677) Homepage
    What a coincidence. When I take this fantastically bad composition titles "Fgnvejnl Gb Urnira" and alter the notes in a certain pattern, I get Stairway To Heaven.
  • by evilquaker (35963) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#19372693)
    Metaltabs.com [metaltabs.com] recently went through this as well. Their solution was to get the permission of either the record labels or the bands themselves to publish tabs on their site. Of the ones who have responded, about 90-95% are giving permission. I wonder if guitartabs would have the same luck.
  • Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RCHS-Svein (999212) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:22PM (#19372743)
    This more or less is one step away from the music industry filing a complaint against someone for remembering, and whistling to a melody under their copyright. I do believe that the correct response to this is to simply ignore all products coming out of the MAFIAA companies. No purchases, no pirating, nothing. Maybe ignoring them totally is a lesson they will learn from. //Svein
  • Good Luck (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:26PM (#19372783)
    Another dead revenue model that they haven't realized won't work anymore. Search yer favorite P2P client/ torrents for PDFs named $band tab . Have fun!
  • The practise of "copying-by-listening"..is absolutly....completly....100% L E G A L. Don't believe me?... about 90% of you are sitting in front of a piece of technology that is wholely depedented on it's practise. I hope that someway somehow, these folks have an attorney with even 1/4 of a Brain. The amount of case law on this, is simply staggering. This is, start-to-finish, 100%, known as Reverse Engineering. The only difference is here the musician/engineer isn't providing these to a attorney, he is p
    • by HexRei (515117)
      I agree that its awful, but the premise of your analogy is flawed because copyright and patent are not the same thing. As I understand it the law would likely support their assertion that this website is hosting unauthorized derivative works.
    • Personally, I love tab sites, and I think they should continue. But the argument that it's reverse engineering is not a way to fight this fight. The problem with the reverse engineering argument is that reverse engineering is a way to get around a patent. Songs aren't protected by patents, they are protected under copyright.

      On top of that, the process isn't even the same. Reverse engineering takes place in clean rooms where the reverse engineering team are shielded from the actual product they're trying
  • Culture Growth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mux2000 (832684) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:30PM (#19372823)
    I don't think this is legal, but nevermind that. This isn't Right(tm).

    How does new music come to be? Do you think a good (and creative) musician got to be that good all by himself? The way I learned music is (1) by listening to good music, (2) by trying to figure out how the piece worked and what made it satisfying and (3) trying to recreate the same effect on my own. Most of the times, on at least one of those steps, I needed somebody else's help. Either in getting to know new music, in figuring out the chords or in learning to play in new ways.

    I couldn't have played the way I do without this help, and I have OLGA to thank for a large piece of that. Of course, I got a lot of help from my friends and teachers, but the sort of collaboration that is possible on the net is, I believe, a real boon for every musician, of every level, from beginner to professional. Then again, who's to say if my friend telling me (or writing down for me to play) the chords to a copyrighted song is legal!?

    My point being, this kind of litigation has only one effect, and that is to suffocate creativity and the growth of our culture.
    • It's not our culture anymore. Culture is created and owned by corporations and doled out to the masses --- for a fee, of course.
  • If they succeed here then it will affect every musicican out there who writes their own songs.
    Why?

    If the write down just TWO Notes then there will most likely be some other works of music that uses those same two notes in that sequence. If that piece of music is copyrighted then tough luck, you are in violation of the prior art's copyright which will pprobably be in violation of a previous piece of work. Repeat this back in time until the legal period of copyright has expired.

    IMHO, Any TWO notes is a sequen
    • Under US law at any rate, a company would be laughed out of court if they attempted to sue over two notes. One of the provisions mentioned under fair use is the amount of material used from the source work.

      Besides which, there's only so many combinations of two notes... 144 if you're dealing with two notes in the same octave, 576 if you're dealing with two octaves.

      I haven't done a study, but I'm fairly sure that the probability of two notes in a row, played on the same instrument, being within two octaves
  • I think the argument with guitar tabs *used* to be that legitimate publishers of tab books would lose out because people could get tabs that were accurate enough for free online. I've played guitar for 15 years, and spent lots of time in guitar shops. I've never seen ANYONE buy one of those tab books. You can go into a guitar shop and look at the rack of tab books, then go back in 5 years and see all the same ones with more dust on them. This has been going on since before there were thousands of tab websit
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by monkaduck (902823)
      Never mind that, but half of the music I would want to learn how to play is not and has never been released in tablature form. I've never seen an Iced Earth tab book; the only way I've been able to learn how to play is to find tabs online. And, even those blasted tab books have errors in them, so they know when they're transcribed and uploaded to the net. So you're paying for a tablature that's not even correct. It's insane.
  • 3 chords (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c_fel (927677) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @02:49PM (#19373033) Homepage
    I wonder who is the owner of this tune :
    1-1-4-1-5-4-1-5
    Three chords that are the base, in that very same order, of at least one third of every rock'n'roll and blues tunes known by human.

    Guitar tabs are not the tune. The tune is the combination of the melody, the lyrics, the chords, the arrangements and the feeling of the band. Finally, this story is all again a try to patent the wheel.
    • Guitar tabs are intended to allow others to recreate the melody and chords, and possibly to a lesser extent, the lyrics and arrangements.

      That would qualify as the majority of the song.

      You see, US copyright law does care how much of the material is similar or the same, as outlined in Title 17 Section 107 Fair Use.

      That's also why it'd be impossible to sue and win over the chords you mentioned above.
  • Since apparently the only requirement is something sounding similar, I recommend they start suing each other. There are hundreds if not thousands but these are a few suggestions off the top of my head to get them started:

    Metallica has a good case against Kid Rock since American Badass sounds like Sad But True.

    The Beatles should have sued the Monkeys for ripping off Paperback writer to bring up Last Train to Clarksville.

    How about Don Henley's End of the Innocence and Bruce Hornsby's Thats Just The Way It Is".

    Rod Stewart should sue Kiss for Hard Luck Woman its a complete copy of You Wear It Well.

    A-Ha's take on me completely lifted the Police's Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.

    Linkin Park should sue itself for making Pushing Me Avway and Numb which are nearly identical musically. Ditto for Nickelback.

    While we are at it, lets just make it illegal to play any song using 12 bar blues
    • by multisync (218450)

      How about Don Henley's End of the Innocence and Bruce Hornsby's Thats Just The Way It Is".


      I'm pretty sure that was Bruce Hornsby playing the piano on that track. In fact, I seem to recall Henley put lyrics to Hornsby's music on that one.

      Not nitpicking, just enjoy trivia. I agree with your point.
  • I have long been of the understanding that an original, by-ear transcription of a song, which is a duplicate of no copyrighted work and which generally deviates substantially from the work on which it is based is the property of its transcriber, and not the original composer of the song.

    Where did he get that weird idea? If that were the case, composers would never get paid anything.

    Remember, this isn't about a copyright of the performance, which is what the RIAA is about. It's about a copyright of t

  • Copyright (Score:5, Funny)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3&phroggy,com> on Sunday June 03, 2007 @03:01PM (#19373107) Homepage
    A
    Blah blah blah blah-dy blah blah blah,

    D                      A
    Blah blah blah blah-dy blah blah blah.

    D
    Blah blah-dy blah blah, blah blah blah,

    A
    Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

    E7               D
    Blah, blah blah; blah blah blah.

    A
    Blah!  Blah blah blah.

    There, I've just written some chords for a song I made up.  But you know what?  Those chords are NOT COPYRIGHTABLE.  The lyrics are (and if you record and distribute a song with these lyrics without paying me royalties, I'll come after you).  The melody is, but I haven't written that down.  The arrangement is (harmonies, instrumentation, etc.) but I haven't written that down either.  The chords themselves are not.  This is data, information about how the song is put together - not art.

    By the way, this particular series of chords (transposed into all 24 major and minor keys) is used in hundreds if not THOUSANDS of different songs.
  • Our species thirsts for knowledge, striving for ever greater understanding of all the facets of the organic and the inorganic, as well as thought and form, including music.

    We've progressed by sharing information for thousands of years and that included songs and music for worship, history, mythology, and just plain fun. Anyone who would restrinct that geneticly instilled curiosity, regardless of their claims of "protection" actually does far more harm than good.

    Simply put, it's unnatural for us to not sh

  • I've played guitar for over 25 years. If I sit down and transcribe a song to tab by ear, is that not reverse engineering? Isn't that supposed to be allowwed? I don't have the original music, so in effect I'm creating it all over in a clean room approach to 'look and feel' like another song. The tabs you see out there are rarely 100% accurate representations of the original music.

    This is just silly BS. I'm tempted to start posting tabs all over the place. Tab tshirts, anyone?
    • by shark72 (702619)

      "I've played guitar for over 25 years. If I sit down and transcribe a song to tab by ear, is that not reverse engineering? Isn't that supposed to be allowwed?"

      Sure, it's allowed. Just don't publish your copy of the song -- the music publishers (who are often the composers themselves) have claimed that right, via copyright law.

      In particular, don't publish unauthorized copies as a for-profit business, as guitartabs has done. If you do, you're likely to incur the wrath of the music publishing associations

  • Anyone who can play by ear should be sued every time they listen to music.

    On top of that, if you play a song written by someone else at a gig or even in your own home you are infringing on said persons copyrights and should be burned at the stakes.

    Why does the music industry want to kill itself so badly?

     
  • Fakebooks (books of sheetmusic from ear trascriptions) have been around for many decades. If they win, this will be precedent setting, and well could kill the fakebook publishing industry as well. This is nuts.
  • What if.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 12357bd (686909) on Monday June 04, 2007 @04:16AM (#19378745)

    A web site allows anonimous upload of a track, and returns a computed tablature for this track. Is chord computing illegal in the USA?

    That's simply foolish, please someone set up such a web site to show how ridiculous is to forbid musical notations.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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