Where is the songbook project?

One of my projects is dead. It was called songbook and was a tool to manage song collections and generate printable .pdf files with and without scores in different sizes. We used it to print the Estonian version of the Taizé songs (Taizé laulud).

The project was designed to be of general use also for others, so the code repository contained some example files.

One of these examples contained texts of over 200 German songs. Spiritual songs that we used for prayer and worship in my home town. My long-term plan was to eventually produce a new songbook for our congregation. Some of the songs in my examples had an empty author field, but I didn’t feel responsible about copyright questions because this file was a plain text markup format and not directly printable. I knew already that copyright would be an issue and added a remark “It is not allowed to use this document for anything else than learning how the songbook module works. Before publishing this document or parts of it, you would need to check with the copyright holders of the individual songs.”

But that wasn’t enough, as it turned out. Four of these songs were written by a German songwriter. The author discovered them, and he did care about copyright, and in August 2012 he asked me to pay a license fee of 630€. Even though I removed the whole project immediately and convinced him that I was not doing any business with “his” “property”. Oh my god.

And it seems that this was still a rather cheap price for a sin against copyright. I paid it because I knew that the costs would become even worse if that guy decided to go to court.

Shortly after this I realized that my private blog contained probably other similar sins against copyright. So I removed it before getting more invoices for license fees.

Later I restarted blogging, because this is my way of communicating, but 14 years of content (from 1998 to 2012) are visible only to me because I didn’t yet have time to make it copyright-compliant.

One can say that this was a key experience in my life and one of the reasons why I started the Lutsu project.