It has come to our notice that an individual has published images of a number of manuscripts photographed by DIAMM and several of our partner libraries on IMSLP. I appreciate that this person probably felt they were providing a service to his fellow researchers and musicians, but in fact he may have single-handedly damaged or even destroyed the future of manuscript image delivery online.
Not only is this a breach of the copyright licence signed when creating an account with DIAMM, it is also a very serious breach of trust that will affect every member of the academic community. Web publication is governed by the same publication copyright as print publication: the only thing that you may reproduce from a web page without infringing copyright is the URL of the page.
Many people appreciate the extraordinary access that DIAMM provides to a wealth of music manuscripts that for most people would be impossibly costly to visit or to buy images for themselves. DIAMM is free, and many libraries also provide their images free. This is an extraordinary service, and one that perhaps we take for granted without realising how much it would matter to us if suddenly it was no longer available. We tend to think of access to manuscript images as our right, yet it is given to us as a courtesy by the owners of the documents.
It has taken decades to build relationships with libraries and archives and to persuade them to digitize their materials, usually at enormous cost. The cost to DIAMM alone to digitize the manuscripts we have photographed is well over a million GBP, yet we make them available to users without charge, a service that costs us a significant amount of money every year, all provided by government or private grants, or with money raised through publications. DIAMM in particular has only been able to survive and grow because of the trust that depositors place in us by allowing us to deliver images of their manuscripts. Our long record of respect for, and protection of, copyright is our great strenght, yet that is now in jeopardy. The upload of copies of our images - and those of other libraries - without permission has brought into doubt the future of DIAMM, since depositors will remove their images if we cannot ensure that users respect the rights of the document owners. In many cases it has taken years (in one case over 7 years) of careful negotiation to persuade libraries to allow us to digitize their documents and put them online. Outside DIAMM many libraries did not put their own images online, and some still do not, because they were/are concerned about rights infringement of this sort - it seems with good justification. Only recently are libraries beginning to put their manuscripts online, and this may stop if users abuse that trust.
Already two libraries have asked us to withdraw their images from online use; carefully negotiated licences with some libraries are likely to be withdrawn, and the images that are lost will not appear anywhere else on the web since the owners believe that the user community cannot be trusted not to redistribute them without permission. We are in the process of negotiating the rights to put over 25,000 new images online, and these negotiations have now stopped until this matter can be resolved: the manuscripts may not be digitized at all, and if they are they may never appear online anywhere. The actions of one individual may therefore mean that many manuscripts that would have otherwise been made available to our community will never appear in a public space.
It is deeply upsetting that the thoughtless behaviour of a single individual should have such far-reaching and damaging consequences for the global research community.
I hope you will join me in censuring the behaviour of this individual and persuading him that, far from helping researchers, he is going to hinder future manuscript access for every potential user - amateur, professional, academic - worldwide.