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IMSLP developments

I have waited a while to write about this, because I was not sure this is the right forum to do so, and in fact I am still not sure. But many of us undoubtedly use IMSLP for both practical and academic purposes, and I do believe that this is a topic that perhaps warrants some discussion and awareness.
 
On 29 Dec 2015, IMSLP announced the introduction of a subscription plan. Non-members now have a waiting period of 15 seconds before downloading certain files from IMSLP's US servers.* The waiting period can be eliminated by purchasing a membership for $22.80 a year, or for being contributors to the library.
 
*It should be noted that, at the current time, it is not entirely clear which files are subject to the waiting period. It was announced that files shared under Creative Commons non-commercial licensing and files hosted by IMSLP's Canadian and EU servers are not affected. I can confirm as of this writing that I am able to download some non-EU files shared as Public Domain without a waiting period, while attempting to download other files leads to the waiting screen, and I'm unable to determine what the difference is between those files. I am also unable to determine which files are hosted on CA servers from the work's page. I suspect that IMSLP may have scaled back on the heavy-handed implementation of the waiting screen initially introduced on Dec 29 after significant backlash, but I have no evidence to the effect.
 
The announcement has drawn the ire of a significant portion of the IMSLP community, most importantly from many contributors. Both the membership fee and the waiting period are trivial, and I have no doubt that most of us are more than willing to pay either cost in a vacuum. However, the entire implementation processof the subscription plan, including the ongoing response from IMSLP management, has raised questions about IMSLP's operation and its future viability. It is therefore this process that has drawn the most backlash from IMSLP users and contributors.
 
1. The move was made abruptly without prior announcement (in a readily perceptible manner, at least) or discussion. Certainly, the community was not consulted on the decision, and at this time it is unclear who was party to the discussion, or if any discussion took place at all. At least one administrator and one part-owner of the site's regional servers have expressed that they were blindsided by the decision. If any consultation was done, it could only have occurred in very limited circles unknown to the public.
 
2. IMSLP management claims that the move has done to ensure the site's long-term sustainability, while admitting that at the curent time there is sufficient funding for the site. The site owner's arguments for implementing this method may be viewed through IMSLP's announcement on its homepage. However, many community members have found the arguments to be less than convincing, and I personally believe that they raise more questions that even the subscription plan itself regarding the quality of IMSLP's operations. It may be stated as a fact, however, that all methods for funding have most certainly not been exhausted prior to the implementation of the subscription plan, considering the complete lack of funding drives or open, visible call for donations. Therefore, the necessity of such a subscription plan in maintaining IMSLP's operations must be considered highly questionable.
 
3. While the intentions of IMSLP management has not been seriously questioned, this incident reveals and highlights that the operating entity of imslp.org is not a charity organization (such as CPDL, for example), but a private company with no obligation of accountability. Of the contributors who oppose this move, many have expressed discomfort at the perception that volunteer contributions are being monetized by a private company, and that the site is on shaky moral ground in implementing paid subscription for such contributions, while also soliciting donations as a private company, in the absence of a clear financial need. IMSLP has declined to release any financial information. At the core it may be argued that the lack of accountability and transparency is at the heart of the subscription plan's implementation in the first place, as it is hard to imagine that a publicly accountable foundation would have made such a decision that draws such significant backlash from its community.
 
I should note that I myself am among the numbers who have lambasted the move on IMSLP's own forums and I do not present a neutral point of view, but I have attempted to represent the facts as they are without distortion, and my own opinions are represented as such. I am only a user of the site and I only report the opinions of contributors as I witness them, but at the very least a vocal portion of them have expressed a strong opposition for IMSLP's direction, and reluctance to continue to contribute to the site in its current form.
 
As I have already expressed, I personally find the changes highly disconcerting, and I am hardly alone in my opinion. I find the decision to introduce this subscription plan to be poorly thought-out and highly ill-advised, with devastating consequences for IMSLP's credibility. On a personal level I cannot find myself supporting IMSLP in any form as long as it continues to represent itself as a privately-operated entity, and I am also less than comfortable with organizations or institutions that I am affiliated with supporting it.
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on January 6, 2016 9:54am
Lincoln,
Who knew? I have not been on IMSLP since the protocol change. I've used many of IMSLP's obscure tunes from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance for use with my four Compline choirs. This is troubling, but I've noticed that ChorallWiki, also an all-volunteer data base has been striving for funds to keep the thing running. It boils down to the definition of the group. Is it a public service or a business? The answer is not clear.
jefe
on January 7, 2016 5:22am
Even as a "public service" there are attendant expenses. Who is supposed to pay for them? It has nothing to do, really, with being a business as much as it does with how possible it might be to keep such a service running. I do agree with the initial poster that the means by which this was done are rather suspect, even if the amounts are trivial. Transparency is always critical. Wikipedia has fund drives that seem to bring in sufficient revenues to keep them viable. I am surprised that IMSLP has not done the same. That said, I use IMSLP almost every day, for a variety of needs, so it is certainly worth the small fee for unfettered access. But it would have been nice to have gotten better warning, and perhaps some alternative options as well. If it is indeed simply a private entity, that, too, is troubling. The collective nature of Wikipedia is, it seems to me, its greatest strength, and it has resulted in tremendous improvements in the site since its inception. I have to agree with the initial post in almost every detail.
on January 7, 2016 8:41am
IMSLP probably hasn't had fund drives because they are not run by a non-profit. While Wikipedia is run by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization, and Choralwiki is also a non-profit, IMSLP is run by what is presumably a for-profit company, Project Petrucci LLC, even though it has a similar look to the other two.
 
My donations to ChoralWiki and Wikipedia are tax-deductible, but not donations/fees to IMSLP.
on January 8, 2016 5:33pm
That's mostly the crux of the issue. The non-profit nature of ChoralWiki's operations and the fact that it's operated by a committee rather than one person lends a lot more credibility. It's also hard to see the entire committee of ChoralWiki succumbing to the same strain of insanity that one person might be afflicted by, and such ill-advised ideas would presumably be shot down at an early stage.
on January 7, 2016 8:08am
Anyone upset with IMSLP's policies is free to re-upload any scores they get there to CPDL. It's public domain, after all.
on January 7, 2016 10:12am
I also agree that the implementation of this was very disconcerting. I contacted my library to see if our university, as an institution,  subscribed to or could subscribe to ISMLP which seems like a better idea...still waiting to hear back.  I am uncomfortable about this, especially when they asked for a monthly donation. I might have taken a chance if given the option for a one time donation, but still, giving out credit card information online is risky. It would be safer to be handled through your school, church or other instituion.
 
on January 8, 2016 5:35pm
For me, I would frankly be uncomfortable with my university supporting IMSLP and I might in fact write to oppose it if they did.
on January 8, 2016 6:08am
Has anyone heard from someone at IMSLP directly about these concerns?
on January 9, 2016 6:22am
Craig, the site's founder and apparently sole manager has been engaged in a dialogue with the user base here.
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