A Model for Purchase and Licensing of Digital Scores

During COVID-19, access to digital music scores became critical for musicians and libraries. Many publishers ceased mail order operations, libraries were closed and physical collections inaccessible, but composers and musicians were still sharing their creative work in digital concert halls and living rooms. During this time, the benefits of digital access to musical scores were more apparent than ever.


Individual libraries and composers have been working together to buy digital scores one by one to add to library collections, where they will be accessible to library performers, researchers, and educators. However, as institutions that are bound by purchasing policy and state laws, libraries often need clarity around how digital purchases are defined and what they are licensed to do with a digital file once purchased.


This agreement is intended to be a tool for librarians and composers. 


Librarians who need to formalize processes with their purchasing departments can use this agreement as a starting point to draft an agreement that meets the mission of their collection and their organization’s policies or legal requirements.


Composers who want to sell and distribute their music digitally from their own websites can use the model language to craft an agreement that will meet their needs and reduce friction in sales to libraries and other organizations. Managing publishing and distribution is a labor-intensive endeavor: this agreement is meant as a starting point for composers to clearly communicate terms of sale to institutions who want to add their music to their collections. Composers should always consult their legal counsel to aid in guiding their decision making.


This agreement is not exhaustive. As a model, it should be adapted to the user’s needs and requirements. We hope this model language will help libraries support a robust composer-led marketplace, and enable them to more easily add the works of independent composers to their collections for research, programming, scholarship and preservation.

Special thanks to Dave Hansen, Kathleen DeLaurenti, Peter Routhier, and Laura Williams for their work in authoring this agreement.