But wait: there is more to the strangeness of this product. The front matter says that the hymns are public domain, but still restricts their printing. How so? Well, it is an interesting thing. The texts are part of the common. The hymn tunes are part of the commons. But ICEL came up with an interesting little proviso: they claimed copyright to the typography! That means that you couldn’t so much as slap a page on a copy machine without breaking the law – even though the content is public domain.
In 1981, nobody had imagined that enterprising musicians might want to reproduce material to distribute outside of one’s own parish. Publishers were still feeling the sting from abuses of mimeograph machines, lawsuits, bishops blackballing some of them, and a general ignorance of copyright law. Since the early 80’s, many publishers have offered generous copyright terms to parish musicians. One-time use for a funeral, a wedding, a workshop. Generally free. Refrains of psalms and many songs? Free, with the purchase of the original music.
I don’t understand why ICEL/GIA would have done this, or maybe I do. One can’t be sure. In any case, the proviso left this book to suffer alone and unused.
I don’t understand the confusion on this. This hymnal/book/resource was intended as a community resource, not as sharing on the internet. The reproduction terms for a parish or religious community are generous: free. I can understand that within the terms offered that every parish would want to purchase one copy. I don’t understand why this is a locus of complaint, unless there’s nothing new to complain about this week.
I’ve owned a copy for over twenty years. I’ve used it somewhat frequently when I needed something off the missalette or hymnal. A few parishes I’ve served have also had it on their shelves. One priest who worked on it hired me in Kansas City seven years ago. He also had the companion resource of psalms and gospel acclamations on the shelf when I arrived.
I seem to have misplaced my copy of this resource. I began this past yesterday, but it seems I left my copy in Kansas City. Or in some box somewhere. Too bad; it would have been good to review some of the pieces I’ve used from that collection.