A Model for Purchase and Licensing of Digital Scores

Last week, Library Futures published Toward a New Access Paradigm: Digital Ownership for Libraries and the Public, a report on the state of digital ownership for libraries.

Music libraries have been grappling with the move from physical content formats to digital formats since the early 2000s when famously, the Los Angeles Philharmonic began releasing live iTunes-only performances. Despite numerous attempts, these performances were never acquired for preservation and access by any university or public library and users must rely on having the technology and personal resources to access them through Apple platforms. 

Today, libraries are also increasingly engaged in conversations about the current landscape for digital ownership and e-books: Maryland introduced legislation, later struck down, aimed at creating a digital marketplace for libraries to purchase e-only content.  Legislation continues to be proposed in additional states (currently Massachusetts and Hawaii) with more expected in the future.

Musical scores have increasingly become a new nexus for discussion about digital content in libraries. The internet now provides more opportunity than ever for composers to retain their copyrights, and associated royalties, through digital self-publication. However, most digital scores are not even available for license at institutions. Faced with limited space, limited budgets, and reduced resources for binding printed music, many libraries are simply unable to acquire digital scores. This also means that a potentially important market is also closed to composers.

Today, we are happy to share a new Model Purchase and License Agreement for Digital Scores. We hope this model will serve as a tool to ease friction in library acquisition of digital scores and provide composers with a tool to make their work accessible to libraries for purchase. Authored by Dave Hansen, Kathleen DeLaurenti, and Laura Williams with additional feedback from members of the MLA Legislation Committee, we hope this resource will expand the ways that libraries can collect digital scores.

This agreement is not exhaustive. For composers, we hope they will modify and employ these terms on their online stores to let libraries know how their scores can be used. For libraries and librarians, we hope you will take this model to your purchasing departments to customize for your local purchasing workflows and requirements.

In addition to easing friction in the digital score marketplace, we hope that this model can be a tool to help us continue to collect and preserve rich, responsive, and diverse local musics that may not be represented in the larger published music catalogs. We welcome your feedback, questions, and success stories! Please contact Kathleen DeLaurenti or Peter Shirts, MLA Legislation Committee Co-Chairs with any comments.