MakeMusic today announced that they would be removing their previously announced PDF importing feature from the upcoming release of Finale. In addition, scanning functionality will be removed from Finale entirely, the company said in a post on their official blog, and going forward the company will “refocus efforts to aim PDF import and OCR technology squarely at creating content for SmartMusic,” its proprietary music learning software.

Fred Flowerday, vice president of product strategy for MakeMusic, said:

I firmly believe that we need to create opportunities in our software through which we can maximize technologies such as OCR and not restrict them.

The new SmartMusic is this opportunity.

Our vision is to provide high quality content, wrapped in tools for learning, accessible via the web and delivered through a platform that empowers teachers in which rights holders always get fairly paid.

If we are able to leverage technologies such as OCR to speed up and empower the creation process for SmartMusic content, it is a win for all involved. And this is exactly what we intend to do.

It is the decision of MakeMusic to remove the PDF import functionality from the upcoming release of Finale. In fact, we are going to take a further step and remove scanning functionality entirely from Finale. We are serious about the integrity of music rights.

Instead, we will refocus efforts to aim PDF import and OCR technology squarely at creating content for SmartMusic. With this approach, we have an opportunity to push the boundaries of what the technology is capable of and create an unapologetically powerful content creation tool for a fully controlled environment in which all rights holders are fairly paid and have a stake in it’s success.

The move is a direct result of the reaction of composers who ignited a social media firestorm last week by objecting to the feature on the belief that it “would be devastating to any composer or publisher.” Some composers objected to the concept of scanning or photographing any PDF for use within Finale. Others voiced a more narrow concern that the feature would bypass PDF restrictions embedded by the creator of the PDF, a concern that MakeMusic did not immediately assuage — although they eventually did say that such restrictions would be respected and files with such restrictions would not be processed. (For more context, see a post from this blog from Friday, June 17.)

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It appears that the decision was made sometime last week at the height of the blowback, before a more complete understanding of the issue was digested by the community (including from this blog). Since then, a number of users have expressed support for the feature, which was largely a bundling of existing (and uncontroversial) technology that had been available for more than two decades, and did not circumvent password restrictions embedded in a PDF or extract data from it, contrary to the belief of many who were concerned.

MakeMusic’s decision to remove the feature is regrettable but understandable. Since publishing our article last Friday, several industry leaders and prominent composers contacted me in support of the Finale feature, but decided against commenting publicly about it. Surely they, and MakeMusic, know that this is not a battle worth wading into further, when the alternative — scanning using the existing software and sending it to Finale using MusicXML — accomplishes the exact same result, albeit with one or two more clicks.

Although it’s easier, and sensible, to cut bait on the issue and move on for now, I hope that this episode doesn’t portend a future in our field where technological progress is impeded by overblown concerns about misuse. The cruel irony is that doing so will harm composers and other creators much more in the long-term by possibly stifling creativity and making it more difficult to work effectively. I heard from one musician who has poor sight-reading skills but excellent instrumental and sequencer chops. He told me that he was excited about the possibility of using Finale to scan music so that he could read it, convert it and send it via MIDI to a DAW, where he would be more fluent in his creative process.

I also hope that this doesn’t deter the software makers from sharing features in advance of their release, which is a welcome change from past decades, where plans were tightly held until announced on release day. Not only have we seen this from Finale, but from Sibelius and the new Dorico program as well, not to mention the free MuseScore, all of which have given us tantalizing glimpses into what the future holds for their respective programs. Still, it’s interesting to consider if the tempest could have been avoided had MakeMusic simply folded the importing feature into a general release announcement, instead of highlighting the feature with a video that made it seem more slicker and revolutionary than it actually was.

It’s heartening that so many in our community support the rights of composers to earn a living from their work. It’s unfortunate that their opinions were guided by a handful of vocal composers who, however well-intentioned, misunderstood the capability of the technology and its iterative role in the continuum of progress. Add to that the messaging missteps from MakeMusic, and the general tendency of social media to amplify passionate viewpoints at the expense of a complete accounting of fact, and the result is the loss of a modest feature that would have been useful without any real gain in protection against copyright infringement.

Maybe next time the collective consciousness can be energized to help creators more effectively harness technological innovation in their endeavors, instead of inhibiting the tools that they use to produce that work in the first place.

Updated at 4:22 pm with a clarification regarding the concerns raised about embedded print restrictions in PDFs.

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Update: June 20, 2016 — MakeMusic announced that they would be removing PDF importing and scanning features from future Finale releases.

Over the past few months, MakeMusic’s notation product manager and senior editor Mark Adler has been previewing the next version of Finale at the company’s official product blog. About three weeks ago, Mark previewed a feature which integrates importing PDFs directly into Finale, presumably without the need for third-party scanning software. He said: “We’ve been working with our friends at Musitek (the makers of SmartScore) to provide a better solution than scanning: the ability to directly import PDF files into Finale.” In a video, he took pictures with a smartphone and converted the image to a Finale file.

Our phones are capable of capturing high-resolution images, something that PhotoScore (a competing product made by Neuraton) has made use of in a smartphone app for nearly two years already. At most, Mark’s announcement seemed like a modest evolution, integrating a similar feature directly into Finale. We dutifully wrote it up last week in a general news recap and moved on.

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Composers Jennifer Higdon and John Mackey didn’t see it as a benign improvement, however. For weeks, both publicly and privately, they actively lobbied MakeMusic to reconsider this feature. On Finale’s Facebook page, Jennifer wrote:

Oh boy, I could see lawsuits coming about this one. Finale doesn’t have any control over who copies PD music or Copyrighted music, but you are setting up a situation that could cause the collapse of music sales…No, there is no upside to having this feature, and I can foresee serious legal issues (and the costs that go with that) for lots of folks on both sides of the equation.

John wrote:

I mean, what’s the intent of this feature if not to destroy copyright? I’m confused. Any PDF file becomes a master Finale file with extractable parts…Finale Music Notation Software somehow hasn’t yet heard us. The next step is to talk a whole lot louder.”

Read the full article →

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Don’t head to the beach for the weekend quite yet! Or if you’ve left already, here’s some reading material from the past week in music notation and technology news.

Sibelius upgrade plans

As reported on May 21, Avid announced pricing plans for Sibelius customers using Sibelius 7.5 and earlier who wait until after June 30, 2016 to upgrade to the latest version of Sibelius. If you own Sibelius 7.5 or earlier and plan on using Sibelius 8 anytime soon, be sure to upgrade before June 30 to avoid paying a higher upgrade fee after July 1.

There’s a grace period of up to 30 days in which you can renew, so technically you have until July 30 to procrastinate, although if you renew during this time, the new time period will start after your original deadline, not from the date when you renew.

We’ve updated our post to reflect a post that Sam Butler made on the Sibelius chat page on June 3 with a series of FAQs about renewing your upgrade and support plan. In addition, Sam announced a new 3-year plan priced at $199, “to give you peace of mind that you’re covered,” which Sam said would be available “when your plan is up for renewal in a year’s time.” Read the full article →

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zawalich3This blog post is written by Bob Zawalich, composer, guitarist, software designer, and creator of hundreds of useful plug-ins for Sibelius. In this post, Bob shows us how to import lines, symbols and noteheads without changing the appearance of your score.

In my previous post, I explained the concept of house styles in Sibelius and how to identify families of styles for use in your scores. A Sibelius house style is a collection of properties that gives a score a characteristic look. The properties include several fonts for text, symbols, and music.

The Appearance > House Style > Import House Style dialog has a list of the properties that can be imported, and show a list of the house styles that can be imported (the example shows the built-in house styles in Sibelius 7.5):

house-style

A user can set up properties in a score and export that collection of properties by using Appearance > House Style > Export. That style can then be imported into other scores (including Manuscript Paper scores), which is a way to share things like instrument definitions and text or line styles with other scores.

Importing all the properties of a house style can change the layout of the target score, and it is best to do this only immediately after creating a score so no formatting will be lost.

You can import only a subset of the properties. Importing anything except the Instrument definitions and its child properties is unlikely to change your score in an unexpected way, though it is always a good idea to save a backup copy of a score before you import a house style. Read the full article →

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Thumbnail image for House style fonts and identifying house style families in Sibelius

House style fonts and identifying house style families in Sibelius

May 31, 2016

In this guest post, Bob Zawalich explains the concept of house styles in Sibelius and how to identify families of styles for use in your scores.

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Thumbnail image for Avid eases upgrade pricing after June 30 deadline

Avid eases upgrade pricing after June 30 deadline

May 21, 2016

Avid announced a revised price of $299 for Sibelius customers using Sibelius 7.5 and earlier who wait until after June 30, 2016 to upgrade to the latest version of Sibelius.

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Thumbnail image for Steinberg announces Dorico; availability in Q4 2016

Steinberg announces Dorico; availability in Q4 2016

May 17, 2016

Today Steinberg announced details about Dorico, the music scoring software more than three years in the making. This post covers the program’s release date, pricing, and details about its modes of working, and other initial impressions.

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Thumbnail image for MOLA 2016 Conference report, day 2

MOLA 2016 Conference report, day 2

May 15, 2016

Today’s MOLA sessions featured Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury demonstrating the company’s new scoring application to assembled audience members, my Finale and StaffPad presentations, and much more.

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Thumbnail image for MOLA 2016 Conference report, day 1

MOLA 2016 Conference report, day 1

May 14, 2016

A report from the first day of activities at the 34th annual MOLA Conference in Helsinki, with presentations on music notation and an update on tomorrow’s Steinberg product demonstration.

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Thumbnail image for Using the Clipboards plug-in in Sibelius

Using the Clipboards plug-in in Sibelius

May 11, 2016

Clipboards, a new plug-in for Sibelius, lets you store the contents of selections into up to 30 numbered clipboards, and to paste from those clipboards into a score. The plug-in’s creator, Bob Zawalich, walks us through how to use it.

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