MakeMusic pulls PDF importing and scanning from Finale in response to concerns

Opinion

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.)

finale-logo

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.

Comments

  1. Justin Tokke

    This is why we can’t have nice things. :(

  2. WayneInNYC

    Then WHAT, pray tell, is the point of buying the new version of Finale? Serious question. They’ve removed the selling point feature.

  3. Gregory Winters

    Phillip:

    Your comments and concerns are dead on the mark. When will this tired Luddite anti-technology argument end? We endured it regarding portable magnetic tape technology. We endured it regarding CD-RW technology. We endured it with Napster and file sharing. We endured it with downloadable sheet music. And now it’s about the PDF format. In each case cited above, the paranoia and resistance only made matters worse…and only prolonged the inevitable.

    The argument against being able to use PDFs in Finale is ludicrous. If I own the sheet music I’m scanning and using in notation software, then I already have a ‘personal license’ to be able to use it any way I want as long as I’m not freely distributing the music to others who have not purchased their own copies. (This hearkens back to being able to make taped copies of vinyl records – a perfectly legitimate exercise.)

    Currently, I have to manually copy the notation from the sheet music into Sibelius, but this isn’t necessarily for the purpose of pirating the music. Instead, I use Sibelius (and Pro Tools) for mixing and playback of the music – *my* music that I legally own. Who are the naysayers to tell me that as long as I’m not breaking copyright law that I don’t have the right to purchase tools that will – dramatically – assist me with that legal purpose?

    Notation software is already under a Darwin-style attack from the ‘pure digital’ crowd – those who believe that music notation is obsolete. This kind of Prohibition-like banning of tools that could make things considerably easier for notation users such as myself will ultimately only do more harm to the industry than good.

  4. Jim warrick

    From what I had seen in the promo videos, the new PDF scanning feature was the ONLY thing unique enough to shell out for a who new program. There is no way I will pay for the new program…and I was a beta tester when a grad student at The U back in 1988. New new money from me. Sorry, you missed a step forward.

  5. John Hinchey

    Well said Philip. I couldn’t agree more.

  6. Frank Macchia

    I can understand how many (including myself) would be enamored of the ability to scan pdf files into Finale and then edit away, transposing, re-arranging, and modifying the music on the pdf. However, as someone who makes part of his living selling pdfs of my compositions and arrangements on my website for a small amount of money as downloadable pdf files it does concern me that this could enable the purchaser of easily manipulating my music and changing the sound and intent of what I created. I understand that the purchaser now owns a set of the music I created but my intent is not to allow them to easily change the content of my music and then perform that version publicly. I also think that many people will use this tool to not legally purchase music but to get scanned pdfs and then modify them in Finale (possibly just changing fonts in order to avoid copyright infringement) and then sell them as their own. As the music industry gets lower and lower in terms of ways to make a living (as we’ve seen with services like Spotify and Pandora) this seems like it could also end up costing content owners a lot of potential money. Just my two cents…

  7. NYC Librarian

    Very short-sighted of Finale, I think! Although I appreciate where the concerns of living composers are coming from, there exists a huge body of out-of-copyright work (such as files on IMSLP), which would be incredibly useful for a feature like this.

    Plus, for a user to work with a PDF even of a copyrighted work would quite likely be covered under fair use provisions, protected by law as one of the two sides of the concept of copyright, as long as they were not turning around and selling the material as their own compositions. And, actually, there’s little in technology now that would stop them from doing that with an existing PDF, if they wanted to. So, once again, we’re in a kind of technological panic.
    Too bad.

    I predict that the scan technology will just appear in some other form, as a standalone.

  8. Derek Williams

    Ridiculous! We can and could already do this with PhotoScore and PDFToMusic for nearly a decade. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

  9. Dave

    I’m suspicious of the motive for removing it. Yes, it is possible to infringe copyright with that feature, but it also has a legitimate legal use in converting old (public domain) music quickly. And I don’t get the argument about importing into SmartMusic instead; wouldn’t that still infringe legally? For that matter, Finale itself makes it possible to hand-enter a work that is illegal to reproduce or change in any manner.

  10. IJ

    I welcomed your reasoned response to this issue in your previous post. Social-media firestorms are most often than not like summary public executions, driven by the passion of the moment with little regard to facts or possible nuances of the given situation. I am usually wary of these (over)reactions.

    It is regrettable that this situation has taken this turn. Pirates will always find ways to circumvent copyright. The fact that they exist shouldn’t hamper progress. Conscientious consumers still outweigh the pirates. Innovations should keep in view the overall good rather than be hampered by the possible attending ills, which can never be completely eliminated.

    Thank you for your bold stand on this issue.

  11. Ralph L. Bowers Jr.

    A short sighted idiotic decision on Make Music’s part.
    Any wagers that as soon as the up coming Dorico adds PDF import Make Music will once again be touting its inclusion in Finale as a feature.
    So, what are we left with a little longer route to have Smart Score Pro or PhotoScore Ultimate create a readable conversion for us to edit in the application.

  12. Andrei

    A long-time Sibelius user (since ver. 4), I fell for Finale’s near “bait-and-switch” and coughed up $149 for the crossgrade just last month, enthused by the promise of possibilities.

    Since MakeMusic chocked quite lamentably re: PDF scanning/importing, I guess I’ll save some money now by not upgrading to the next version — I’m quite underwhelmed by Finale so far, anyway, and doubt I’ll actually use it.

    I look forward to MuseScore very possibly having this capability in the near future, and teach these rudderless Avid and MakeMusic subscription-crazy bean-counters a hard lesson, as apparently they still haven’t figured out what to throw at the wall and have stick.

    Philip, thank you for your cogent and rational position!

    1. Ralph

      MuseScore has a experimental service that converts pdf to a readable file.

      1. Ralph

        https://audiveris.kenai.com/

        Is the service used by MuseScore.

        As I said earlier, as soon as Dorico and others offer within the application itself to convert pdf to a readable file for that particular application Make Music will once again tout this feature in their application as an new offering as well.

  13. JC Harris

    I could not disagree more with the tone of most of the previous comments.

    What makes IP theft (at all levels) happen is the ease at which it is possible. When you make it difficult for people to copy, they tend to not bother. When you make it easy, you make it normative to copy… Because, hey, -everyone- is doing it, dude.

    I am totally in favour of revamping copyright laws. The current insanity where Stravinsky is not PD 50 years after his death is beyond ridiculous. That is a big part of what is killing notated music. It’s far too hard for kids to legally get their hands on scores to study. Hopefully that will be addressed at some point in congress.

    But just because the genie got out of the bottle in other media doesn’t make it right. It’s simply wrong for a company to make it so easy to violate copyright.

    If they can figure out a way to import -and- get the IP holders compensated, I’m all in favour.

    But even if the boat has sailed, even if there are other ways to do it without paying, Sibelius shouldn’t not get on board. It sends the wrong message.

  14. Don Stapleson

    I was considering switching to Finale just for this feature. No reason to even think about doing so now.

  15. Dainis

    i’d switch to sibelius over this issue.

    i have to conduct on Sunday. it’s thursday. the pastor wants to change the lyrics of jacob’s ladder, and i agreed to make a score.

    the hymn is in the public domain, and it’s available as a PDF download.

    i want to change the lyrics and make a quick, readable score for the choir and congregation.

    i am responsible to comply with IP (copyright) laws. it is not up to Finale to restrict me from doing legal, time-saving things, just because a tech would make illegal activity possible.

    i don’t do illegal things.

    instead of having about 2-3 extra hours of work (which i can handle by Sunday), it looks like i have 4-8 extra hours of work — which is the difference between being well-rested and happy — and bleary and grumpy on the inside.

    yes, i put on a happy face even when tired, but i just upgraded to Finale v25 like an hour ago, in part to access this feature.

    i found out that they had pulled it after downloading and installing.

    again: i don’t do illegal things, i just wanted to be well-rested to be able to conduct well on Sunday.

    :-(

    just because other people may do illegal things with a technology, does not mean that i would.

  16. Ulf Andersson

    Well written by Philp Rothman. This is a tragic mistake by Finale. Importing a scanned document has very little to do with copyright violation issues. I will certainly not purchase Finale 25, since this is a fundamental feature for anyone who works with music arrangements, (and at times likes to use a pen and a paper.)

    1. Philip Rothman

      Ulf, you may be interested to know that Musitek has now released SmartScore Music-to-XML, a desktop app that will convert PDF files to music notation files.

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