If you'll permit me another post, I would like to address some further points raised by other posters.
Andrew, others have touched on it, but you seem to be missing the difference between the physical item and its contents. OBVIOUSLY the physical texts stored at those libraries are owned by them. Anyone trying to make off with them would be a thief, no question about it.
I actually think I grasp the point quite well. I'm not talking about copyright of the contents. Nobody is claiming copyright of the contents. Nobody (in this discussion) is even claiming copyright of the images. I don't care about copyright. I've said it before -- that's a question for the lawyers.
What I *do* care about is access to the physical items. DIAMM *needs* access to the physical items. They are not a person with a cheap camera and a day pass to the library. You should see the kit they travel with (This video is great, BTW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBUKT_x0rDM
) Without negotiating with libraries, they don't get access to the physical objects. Without signing contracts with libraries, they don't have permission to make these objects public. If this contract gets breached, the libraries (despite various claims about copyright law) can demand that they remove these manuscripts from online access, and DIAMM must comply or be found in breach of contract. Furthermore, they will likely never be able to work with that library again, or even other libraries.
So while you might be right about copyright, there are other considerations to take into account.
The moment the "avid collector" of these public domain works or someone acting as his proxy posted images of them on the internet they lost control of those images---the genie has been released from the bottle.
This speaks to my point, so I'm glad you brought it up. Let's pretend again that I'm an avid collector and, out of my interest in the public good I've made arrangements for a third-party -- let's call them MIADD -- to come in and digitize my works. The only stipulation is that if someone wants to make a profit off of these works (not the content, mind you, but selling an image of the physical object) they must first notify me, and I will ask them to pay a small fee, or I'll just tell them to forget the fee if they're small enough. So I place these images up on the internet, and an organization -- let's call them SMILP -- says that they will take these images and because of their interpretation of copyright law, will make them available outside of the MIADD site, with no conditions.
So SMILP gets 10 books, and makes them public. That genie is, as they say, "out of the bottle." Meanwhile, MIADD is preparing 60 more works to post online, but it's come back to me that MIADD has 'lost control' of these works and that the one condition that I asked them to keep has been broken. So when MIADD approaches me to sign off on their project, I say "thanks but no thanks" and close off digital access to my collection, giving the MIADD digitization program the boot. SMILP gets to make a point about copyright, but in the meantime all the works that are not available on SMILP are outside of public access.
Now lets pretend that these are all unique manuscripts, unlike any others in the world. These aren't prints. There are no other libraries you can walk into to see them. And because I'm a busy man, my library is only open from 3-4pm every second Sunday, except it's not open at all during Lent or Advent. And you must show up with a letter of introduction from a well-known scholar, and a bottle of rum for the monk behind the desk.
You think I'm joking, but I'm not. These are not far off from the real conditions that some of these libraries impose on access. *This* is why DIAMM is so important. Before DIAMM, this is what you had to do, to a greater or lesser extent. After DIAMM, anyone could access these images, at any time, anywhere in the world. Because DIAMM played the library's "game" with regards to reproduction rights, they gained physical access to these works. The physical access, and the digital images that come from physical access, allow anyone in the world to access the intellectual content, with no expectation of compensation or reward. Concerts have been played, musicians have been exploring new works, new scholarship has opened up insights into early music that older scholars could not have dreamed of.
And it all stems from physical access, and the cachet that DIAMM has with these libraries.
As I said in a previous post, if IMSLP wants to take over the negotiations with the libraries to do this, I'm sure DIAMM would be on board (I can't speak for them, of course, but I know how much DIAMM values public access to these materials as well). I don't imagine that DIAMM sees rights negotiations as a productive use of time (they would rather be digitizing!) As it is now, however, there is a very real danger that DIAMM will be left holding the bag when libraries revoke their agreement, while ISMLP lets the ball drop and access to most of the materials (and any future materials) goes back to the pre-Internet days. (You laugh, but many of them don't have open stacks, a concept that was pioneered in the late 19th C. If it's been over 150 years and they haven't caught on to that trend, what makes you think they'll care at all about a bunch of digital images? Some have been around since before Columbus sailed!)
So yeah, while these works MAY, EVENTUALLY, make it out on IMSLP by other means, what should the rest of us do in the meantime? Spend the $800 travel grant I scraped together to go and visit one library in the mountains of Switzerland
in the hopes that the catalogue that they published in 1961 was accurate and that the manuscript they mention is still on the shelves there? And those works that do make it onto IMSLP, are they shot with colour-corrected lenses and light cards to ensure that I can tell that the smudge of ink on the second staff is a dot, and not a squished insect?
If it were you, wouldn't you rather sit at home and visit 10 libraries in the space of an evening, viewing high-quality images over your internet connection, with time left over to discover a new musical work that nobody's seen or studied before?
DIAMM is over 15 years old. The "genie" has been kept in the bottle for well over a decade since those who really care about these works understand that without DIAMM, there is no access, and the conditions they agree to when signing up are small change when compared to the actual results that they get from access to these works.
[Edited for grammar, clarity, removing hyperbole.]