Stephen Flaherty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jason Robert Brown, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk Sound Off on Sheet Music Piracy and Advice for Songwriters

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23 Apr 2014

Craig Carnelia and Stephen Schwartz
photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images

Websites such as PianoFlies.com, MuseScore.com, PianoWorld.com and others are sharing (and selling) thousands of files — scanned, stolen or illegally obtained — from multiple songwriters, with much of their material in its early forms and not the latest and most up-to-date draft.

As Tony Award-winning Ragtime composer Stephen Flaherty (who celebrates his 30th year with writing partner Lynn Ahrens — and the Broadway bow of Rocky — this year) typed in his name and hit the "Search" button on PianoFiles.com, 4,788 results bounced back — with My Favourite Year (misspelled with the letter U in the title) topping the list.

"You can get the song 'I Eat,' which is a song I wrote for Audra McDonald, Seuss… You can get A Man of No Importance, the entire piano score," Flaherty said as he combed through the long list of results. "Look at Seussical — who knew there were 999 pages of band parts? They're releasing the band parts. That's actually leased material. It's a rental material from MTI. You can get Once on This Island, 'The Streets of Dublin,' the music of 'Anastasia,' Dessa Rose, which was a really tricky and important piece for me to write and get into the world… The last time I checked, there were nearly 3,000 [results]. Now there are 4,788."

He continued, "I remember when I came to New York City, I was 21 years old — right off that bus from Pittsburgh, and I had no money, and each week, if I could collect enough money, it would allow me to be a writer for one more week. It was literally 'hand to mouth.' I think of a lot of the young writers in my shoes… We're here because we want to be supportive of all writers."



Stitt, who (along with husband Jason Robert Brown) has been a major voice in anti-piracy awareness, added, "You have the young songwriters who can't pay their rent because they live on sheet music sales, so they get jobs that preclude them from being able to write new songs, so ultimately, they can't be prolific. And then you have the older, more established songwriters whose publishers won't pick up their contracts or won't publish their new solo songbooks because they can't sell them because there's no profit margin."

Bridges of Madison County songwriter Brown thanked his wife for initially bringing the issue to the forefront and has been fighting the fight ever since. The Tony Award-winning Parade composer famously posted his email exchange with a teenager in 2010 regarding the illegal share of his work.

"The legalities are not vague," said Brown. "There's nothing sort of ambiguous about them. It's really clear. You can't do it. According to the law, you cannot take a piece of sheet music and then photocopy it or scan it and then distribute it on the Internet for free."

Continued...

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