International Music Score Library Project

From New World Encyclopedia

International Music Score Library Project
URL IMSLP Petrucci Music Library
Commercial? Yes (subscription)
Type of site Music score library
Owner IMSLP community
Created by Feldmahler (aka Edward W. Guo)
LaunchedFebruary 16, 2006
Current status of siteActive

The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) was a project, created by Edward W. Guo, an 18-year-old music student in Canada, for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores. Since its launch on February 16, 2006, more than 15,000 scores, for 9,000 works, by over one thousand composers were uploaded, making it one of the largest public domain music score collections on the web. A number of reputable institutions and universities including MIT and Stanford commended IMSLP. The project used MediaWiki software to provide contributors with a familiar interface.

Besides providing a digital repository, the IMSLP offers possibilities as a musicological encyclopaedia, since multiple and historical editions of a single composition can be uploaded. Also, pages on publishers provide valuable information, and the work pages themselves often contain a large quantity of information, e.g. roles in an opera.

The IMSLP homepage as of May 2007



Edward W. Guo, known as Feldmahler, an 18-year-old Canadian music student, launched a non-commercial site using wiki software on February 16, 2006.[1] The library consisted mainly of scans of old musical editions out of copyright. In addition, it admitted scores by contemporary composers who wished to share their music with the world by releasing it under a Creative Commons license. It rapidly grew in a few short years. One of the main projects of IMSLP was the sorting and uploading of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe (1851-1899). Besides J.S. Bach's, Frédéric Chopin's nearly complete oeuvre was available on IMSLP.

Besides providing a digital repository, IMSLP offered possibilities as a musicological encyclopaedia, since multiple and historical editions of a single composition could be uploaded, and musicological analyses and historical commentaries accompany the scores.

IMSLP had been officially recommended by MIT.[2] It was suggested as a resource by university libraries at Oberlin Conservatory of Music,[3] Manhattan School of Music[4] Stanford University, McGill University,[5] California Institute of the Arts,[6] among others. It is included in the MERLOT system, which provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools.[7]

In 2009, the IMSLP won the MERLOT Classics award for Music.[8] In 2018, Edward Guo was honored with The Helen Rice Award by the Associated Chamber Music Players (ACMP) Foundation in recognition of those who have moved the chamber music world in a new directions.[9]

Closure and reopening

On October 19, 2007, the IMSLP closed following legal demands from Universal Edition a classical music publishing firm of Vienna, Austria.[10] The cease and desist letter expressed concern that some works that are in public domain in the server's location in Canada with copyright protection of 50 years post mortem, but which are protected by the 70 years post mortem term in Austria and some other countries, were available in those countries. The administrator of the website, Edward W. Guo, known under the nickname Feldmahler, decided to close down the repository, but left the forums online so that discussions into the best way to proceed could be made:[11]

On Saturday October 13, 2007, I received a second Cease and Desist letter from Universal Edition. At first I thought this letter would be similar in content to the first Cease and Desist letter I received in August. However, after lengthy discussions with very knowledgeable lawyers and supporters, I became painfully aware of the fact that I, a normal college student, has neither the energy nor the money necessary to deal with this issue in any other way than to agree with the cease and desist, and take down the entire site. I cannot apologize enough to all IMSLP contributors, who have done so much for IMSLP in the last two years.

Feldmahler (project leader)

In response, director Michael S. Hart of Project Gutenberg offered support to keep the project online.[12] This offer was declined by Feldmahler, who voiced concern about having the project hosted in the United States, and consulted the Canadian wing of Project Gutenberg.[11] On November 2, 2007, Michael Geist, a prominent Canadian copyright academic, wrote an article for the BBC discussing the specifics and the wider implications of this case.[13]

IMSLP went back online on 30 June, 2008. Since its reopening, the site has been using a strict copyright policy wherein uploaded files are made accessible for download only after the copyright status for three most frequent copyright regimes has been reviewed by staff members. Although the server is located in Canada, files that are not public domain in the US were until July 2010 flagged [TB], for 'Technical Block' or 'Temporary Block', and could not be viewed. After an initial phase, [TB] flagged items have essentially disappeared thanks to the introduction of regional servers operated by unaffiliated organizations.

On November 7, 2017, the IMSLP received a cease and desist letter from the heirs of Sergei Prokofiev expressing concern that the composer's music was available for download in countries where his music was still under copyright protection. This demand was followed up by a separate letter from the National Music Publishers Association on January 19, 2018. On February 23, 2018, access to all compositions by Prokofiev was blocked by the IMSLP in response to these legal threats. The issues were partially resolved on the IMSLP forums in July 2018, resulting in the reupload of Prokofiev's pre-1923 works. In August, the remainder of Prokofiev's works were reuploaded so that they would only be available in the countries they are allowed in.

The question still remains whether all online activities perfectly legal under a jurisprudence of one country have to consider legal implications in all counties on the earth and how jurisprudence can go beyond the boundary of a nation state.

WIMA merge

On August 23, 2011, an announcement was made that the Werner Icking Music Archive would merge with the IMSLP.[14] The merge was announced to be complete in July, 2012.[15]

Current legal structure

IMSLP is now owned by Project Petrucci LLC, a private company registered in Delaware, which was created to run the website.[16]

Subscription introduction

On December 27, 2015, the IMSLP moved to a subscription-based model, where users are expected to pay to avoid a waiting period on some of the files available on the site, and to access certain newly uploaded files. Users who have not paid are subject to a 15-second waiting period on certain files (excluding Creative Commons-licensed files that constitute a majority of the site's files), are required to wait up to two days to access newly uploaded files, and are shown advertising.[17]

The project leader Edward Guo claimed the changes were made because the level of funding was "not sustainable in the long run," noting:

The income we receive from various sources have been enough to maintain the site so far, but I increasingly believe that this level of funding is not sustainable in the long run. We are not, like traditional music libraries, bound by the service of a conservatory, university or publisher, but rather can do things that traditional institutions are not willing to do, because we serve only musicians and music lovers. But everything is a tradeoff – we also do not have the funding infrastructure these traditional institutions have, and over the past few years I’ve frankly exhausted my imagination in searching for new realistic sources of funding for IMSLP.

And so I will announce here that a subscription system for IMSLP will be put in place. But this will not be a traditional subscription model – in particular, no file will be blocked from access by the public. Rather, a subscription will permit a member to download files without having to wait a certain number of seconds, eliminiate [sic] some of the advertising on the site, and a few other benefits. I see this as a way to both preserve IMSLP’s philosophy of open access and to secure IMSLP’s future.[18]

Guo attributed the change in funding to discussions with librarians at an IAML conference in June 2015.

Similar projects

Mutopia project

The Mutopia project is a volunteer-run effort to create a library of free content sheet music, in a way similar to Project Gutenberg's library of public domain books.

The music is reproduced from old scores that are out of copyright. The new scores are typeset with GNU LilyPond and distributed in PDF, PostScript, Midi, and LilyPond format.

Currently, there are more than 1300 pieces of sheet music available, more than half of which are pieces for piano. There are also many pieces for voice, and various other musical instruments. On the Mutopia project home page, there is a list with links to the most recently added pieces.

Choral Public Domain Library

The Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) is a sheet music archive which focuses on choral and vocal music in the public domain.

Music is available for free download in a variety of formats, including score images in PDF and TIFF format, sound files in MIDI and MP3 formats, and in the notation formats supported by various notation programs, including Finale, Finale Allegro, Finale PrintMusic, and Finale Notepad by MakeMusic, Sibelius, by Sibelius, Noteworthy composer, Encore, and the open source GNU Lilypond. Most scores on CPDL are distributed under an open-source license. CPDL archives over 8,900 scores contributed by over 400 editors and composers. It includes large numbers of scores by many composers, especially from the Renaissance period, including nearly complete vocal works by William Byrd and Tomás Luis de Victoria in excellent editions.

CPDL is suggested as a resource by departmental or faculty websites at Kent State University, Northern Illinois University, the University of Oregon, the University of Western Ontario, the Internet Public Library of the University of Michigan, the University at Albany, The State University of New York, by the UCLA Music Library and by inclusion by faculty members in syllabi for courses at Stanford and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It is recommended by the Iowa and Massachusetts chapters of the American Choral Directors Association, and is included in the resource database of Intute, an association of Institutions in the United Kingdom.

Werner Icking Music Archive

The Werner Icking Music Archive, often abbreviated WIMA, is a web archive of public domain sheet music. WIMA continues the defunct GMD Music Archive and is named after its founder, the late Werner Icking.

WIMA offers primarily classical music, but the archive also contains jazz scores. WIMA is also the home site of MusiXTeX, a suite of open source music typesetting utilities based on the typesetting system TeX

The majority of the compositions represented in WIMA is early music. Some of the early music scores published in WIMA are the first modern editions of these compositions. A number of contemporary composers have chosen to publish their works in WIMA.

The older music offered in WIMA is out of copyright. The scores are electronically typeset by volunteers and distributed in PDF, often accompanied by their typesetting files.

WIMA merged with IMSLP in 2012. Instructions for its former users on how to access WIMA files are to be found on its website.[19]


  1. User:Feldmahler, IMSLP. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  2. Music Research Guide: Free web resources Lewis Music Library, MIT Libraries. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  3. Classical Music in the Public Domain Oberlin Conservatory Library, May 20, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  4. Free stuff on the web The Peter Jay Sharp Library, Manhattan School of Music. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  5. Online resources Burney Centre, McGill University. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  6. CalArts Library, Databases CalArts Library. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  7. International Music Score Library Project MERLOT. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  8. MERLOT Awards: Exemplary Classics MERLOT. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  9. Associated Chamber Music Players (ACMP) Honored Edward Guo, Founder of the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Asian American Arts Alliance, October 20, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  10. Ken Clark, Cease and Desist Letter from Universal Edition AG Aird & Berlis LLP, October 5, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Feldmahler, Open letter October 19, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  12. Michael Hart, Re: Three quick links on digitizations and their constraints Book People Archive, October 23, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  13. Michael Geist, The day the music died Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  14. IMSLP to merge with WIMA IMSLP Forums, August 23, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  15. WIMA has merged with IMSLP, the International Music Score Library Project Werner Icking Music Archive, July 23, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  16. IMSLP:About IMSLP. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  17. IMSLP music library introduces paid membership The Strad, January 5, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  18. Upcoming changes IMSLP Forums, December 27, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  19. WIMA: Werner Icking Music Archive. Retrieved March 8, 2023.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • International Conference on Music Information Retrieval, Holger H. Hoos, and David Bainbridge. ISMIR 2003: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Music Information Retrieval, October 26-30, 2003, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
  • International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval, J. Stephen Downie, and David Bainbridge. ISMIR 2001: 2nd Annual International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval, October 15-17, 2001, Indiana Memorial Union, Indiana University, University Information Technology Services.

External links

All links retrieved March 6, 2023.

Similar projects


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.