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Critical Mozart

W. A. MozartRecently, Alex Ross hailed the opening of the Mozart Institute Web site, an online version of the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe. The idea is "to make Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's musical compositions widely and conveniently accessible to the public, for personal study and for educational and classroom use." You can search for the part of the critical edition you want, download it, and print it out, as long as you "agree to use this web site only for personal study and not to make copies except for my personal use."

Who are they kidding? Theoretically this is no different than teachers and students of music photocopying parts of the critical edition scores for study and practice, which we do all the time in our music libraries. However, when you open that up to the Entire Freaking Internet, it is a totally new ball game. Predictably and, I think, justifiably, there was some concerned murmuring on the American Musicological Society's e-mail list about such an enterprise. Are the rights of the editors being protected under such an arrangement? Newspapers have reported that the International Mozart Foundation paid Bärenreiter-Verlag the sum of 302,000 € ($397,000) for the digital publication rights. To whom will that money go?

Since I have not edited any of the volumes in the NMA, I am ecstatically downloading everything I can manage, although the site is overrun with requests. However, if that were my work -- not only the carefully checked scores but the extensive critical notes -- available to the whole world for free instead of buying it in legitimate book form, I would probably be upset.

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