I'm a big fan of open source software. I also play the baritone horn in the local community band. One of the other members of the band also plays the baritone horn, but, while I learned to play the baritone horn reading music written in bass clef in the key of C, my companion, who is only 13 years old and just starting out, is in the process of learning to read baritone horn music written in treble clef in the key of Bb and, since he's been in this band longer than I have, the band has bought all of the baritone horn music in Bb treble clef. Since it's not going to be helpful to him to tell him to stop learning treble clef and try to start him down the bass clef path, and since it's not practical for the band to buy additional music, I've been playing the trombone parts on my horn and we have been getting by OK for the most part. Whenever we need to work on things, though, we end up mired in communications problems because everything we need to talk about needs to be translated across keys and clefs. He hasn't learned a lot of music theory yet and I'm old and out of practice - transposing things in my head gives me an instant headache. Especially at our early morning rehearsals.
So when a friend of mine suggested the open source Musescore software (available at www.musescore.org), I downloaded it and fell in love with it immediately. I've seen some other pieces of software that do the same things as Musescore, but they're expensive and part of the whole culture of proprietary software that I detest. With Musescore I can write out exercises, melodies, and cords in bass clef and then instantly transpose them to Bb treble clef and print them off so that we can work together without complicating his learning or my tired brain.
The reason that this relates to libraries is that I discovered, quite by accident, that in addition to www.musescore.org, there is a companion site, www.musescore.com. And here's where my love for Musescore sours.
The company that has created the free and open source software has a companion website for people to share the music they have created with the Musescore software. You can go to musescore.com and download sheet music that people have created with the Musescore software, but most of that sheet music people are posting violates the original composer's copyright.
I could, for example, sit myself down and use Musescore to write out an arrangement of the Jesse Stone composition, "Idaho," (a hit for the Benny Goodman Orchestra with Dick Haymes singing the lead vocal) and then post it to Musescore.com where anyone could download it. This is a huge copyright violation both on my part for publishing an unauthorized arrangement of this song and on the part of the person who downloads my unauthorized arrangement.
And this does come back to the library world because it was while I was answering a question for someone at the reference desk about finding some sheet music for her that I came across two illegal arrangements of what she was looking for published at Musescore.com. Fortunately I was also able to find a piano arrangement of the same song in a book we had on the shelf, but I'm pretty sure that if that had not been readily available, she would have happily sat down at one of our public computers and happily violated the composer's copyright. I'll also add that, of the two arrangements, one of them was awful. That's another issue with Musescore.com, is that the quality varies from song to song because of the skill of the people posting music.
The whole experience reminded me of the post I did about scribd.com a few months ago which does, essentially, the same thing as Musescore, but for text. Anyone can upload whether they wrote the stuff they're uploading themselves or when they're uploading copy-written materials.
So be careful if you have any library users looking for sheet music. Musescore is an option, but, like Scribd, it may not be a legal option.
And, in case you've never heard it, here's the Benny Goodman/Dick Haymes version of the Jesse Stone composition, "Idaho."