Home > Culture, Law, Music > Jason Robert Brown on Copyright

Jason Robert Brown on Copyright

[Photo from Jason Robert Brown website]

Jason Robert Brown is one of the leading musical theater composer-lyricists of our time. I realize that may not be saying much, since so few contemporary musical theater composers are known at all. But they’re out there. Brown is one of them, and he’s marvelous.

Perhaps best known of his songs is Stars and the Moon from the 1995 show Songs for a New World. If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend going to iTunes (or some other legal source) to download one of the many versions. (I have those by Audra McDonald, whom you can see below singing it, and Betty Buckley.)

A tweet from David Pogue this afternoon pointed me to Jason Robert Brown’s blog, where last week he had a fascinating post discussing (and providing) the correspondence he had recently with a teenager regarding the legality and morality of downloading sheet music for free, without the composer’s permission.

I couldn’t possibly do the post justice by quoting from it. You should read it in full. To get you started, here’s how it begins:

I have known for a while that there are websites where you can essentially download sheet music for free, and I am certainly aware that a lot of the sheet music being downloaded in that manner was written by me. While my wife Georgia has written extensively about this problem, I have tended to sit back, certain that anything I do would just be the tiniest drop in a very large bucket. But about a month ago, I was seized by the idea to try an experiment.

I signed on to the website that is most offensive to me, got an account, and typed my name into the Search box. I got 4,000 hits. Four thousand copies of my music were being offered for “trade.” (I put “trade” in quotes because of course it’s not really a trade, since nobody’s giving anything up in exchange for what they get. It’s just making illegal unauthorized copies, and calling it “trade” legitimizes it in an utterly fraudulent way.) I clicked on the most recent addition, and I sent the user who was offering that music an email. This is what I wrote:

Hey there! Can I get you to stop trading my stuff? It’s totally not cool with me. Write me if you have any questions, I’m happy to talk to you about this. jason@jasonrobertbrown.com

Thanks,
J.

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Categories: Culture, Law, Music
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