Jason Robert Brown Battles Music Copyright Infringment

Parade, Last Five Years, Songs for a New World, and 13 composer Jason Robert Brown has taken to his website to address an ever-growing problem in the publishing world as internet tricks become more and more sophisticated: copyright infringement.  Presently, there are dozens of sites that make available sheet music (including that written by Brown) for "trade," essentially allowing a prospective downloader to request sheet music copies of their choice for free.

Enacting an experiment, Brown took to e-mailing some 400 hosts offering his music to such downloaders for no charge, asking that they stop:

"Hey there! Can I get you to stop trading my stuff? It's totally not cool with me. Write me if you have any questions, I'm happy to talk to you about this. jason@jasonrobertbrown.com


The outcome of the experiment was somewhat promising, Brown reveals in his blog, with many of the hosts apologizing and subsequently placing his material on the "not for trade" list.  Some hosts, however, remained steadfast.  In one particularly fiery reply, one host remarked:

"I've taKen Down your music, but if you're really Jason Robert Brown, I'd like to ask you a question. Why are you doing this? I just searched you on this site and all of the stuff that people have of yours up there say that it's "Not for Trade Per Composer's Request." Did you think about the aspiring actors and actresses who really need some good sheet music? If you're really who you claim to be, then I assume you know that Parade, Last Five Years, 13 The Musical, etc. are all genius pieces of work and that a lot of people who would love to have that sheet music can't afford it. Thus the term "starving artist." Performers really need quick and easy ways to attain good sheet music and you're stopping a lot of people from getting what they need. It matters a great deal to them that they can get it for free. Why does it matter so much to you that they don't?"

And in a later post: "...my parents don't support my theatre and wouldn't give me said necessary credit card. Therefore, I cannot buy it. And it is nothing like going to see a show. And you know it. If you are who you say you are, then you're more intelligent than that. You're a genius and your stuff is amazing to perform, but apparently, you're a jerk. We in theatre should support one another and that's not what you're doing."

To this, Brown replied (in excerpt): "...being able to steal something doesn't mean you should. If your parents really won't pony up the four bucks to buy a copy of the sheet music, then you can ask them to take you to the library and you can take out all the music you want, free, and pick the song you want to use for an audition or a talent show, and you can keep borrowing the book from the library until you're done with it or until the library demands it back. My song may not be in your library - you could ask them to get it from another library, through an interlibrary loan (this is common, standard library practice), but if you're in a time crunch, that's not practical - so you may have to just pick another song. It may not be the perfect song, but if you're a talented girl, it won't matter all that much. As long as it shows off what you can do and who you are, it will suffice because you are a teenager and the people who you are auditioning for will cut you slack on that account."

Click here to read the full exchange and Brown's full blog post.


Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski

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