[[ZEITGEIST]] If you're a webmaster of a tab site, this man wants you in jail
Meet Lauren Keiser, if you are the webmaster of a guitar tab site he says he wants to put you in jail. Kasner is the president of the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) which represents US sheet music companies and who launched its first large-scale legal campaign against guitar tab sites recently.
Kasner is quoted as saying that he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".
David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers' Association, added his concerns. "Unauthorised use of lyrics and tablature deprives the songwriter of the ability to make a living, and is no different than stealing," he said.
Hmmm, this is a difficult area. A Technological shift has made certain protectionist practices somewhat redundant and reaffirmed as basic truth - that all music want to be free! The fact that sheet music publishing is an anachronistic, exploitative and unfair practice does not seem to have crossed Messers Kasner and Isrealite's minds. After we have all heard the story of those fat-cat artists driving around in stretch limos and the poor publishers struggling to feed themselves in one room apartments - yeah right!
The first thing to say about tab sites is that people do not go out and buy the music and copy out the notation. Usually they sit a home with a song and their guitar and work out how to play it from scratch, for the love of it. Then they publish the results of their efforts online as a gesture of pride, as well as offering a helping hand to other musicians. I have to say that I love tab sites, but I often find that the tabs on them are wrong and I have to sit at a piano usually and work out what is happening (mind you that is exactly the same with sheet music, some of which is appallingly notated). But I digress, tab sites are still incredibly useful, since a lot of the hard work has been already done for you.
Now as for the legal implications. I don't know where publishers stand on this, because strictly speaking it is reverse engineering not copying. Reverse engineering is something that computer companies did in the 1980s to copy IMB's largely third party desktop PC. It ushered in the age of the personal computing. What happened was that a project manager (for Compaq say) would get a group of boffins in a room and tell them, "I a need a component that can do such and such, can you design one?" and "voila!" you had a IBM clone in the shops: leaching vast amounts off IMB profits. I would have thought a similar defence could be tried in the case of tab sites, since the songs on them can be considered to be reversed engineered.
For the source story go to the BBC
Here are some completely balanced and impartial comments on this story
Some good tab sites (visit them while you still can) are: