Lyrics Websites Strike Sour Note With Songwriters

NMPAWe’ve all been there, searching for the words to Weezer’s My Name is Jonas because you can’t tell if Rivers Cuomo says “just like Grandma made when we couldn’t find something to eat” or “just like Grandma made when we couldn’t find sleep”. I see it all the time, it’s an epidemic.

Although the song was written by the band’s members, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the aforementioned song lyrics were written by some guy outside of the band and sold to them to use on their album. Did you know that whoever wrote the words to that song might be miffed that you found the lyrics on some shabbily built foreign website full of Google Adwords ads? Even though this person already sold the lyrics to Weezer, he doesn’t want you eyeballing what he wrote while some other website makes money from advertisements.

And so begins another era of music industry-related legal issues. The National Music Publishers’ Associating is busy building its army of lawyer robots who, in turn, are busy sending out takedown letters to lyrics websites. If (when) that doesn’t work, they’re ready to start sending similar notices to ISPs and search engines.

I’m not sure when the referencing of song lyrics turned into a commodity that people are willing to pay for but apparently it’s worth about a $100 million each year, according to Gracenote Chief Executive Craig Palmer. Gracenote and Yahoo! teamed up to provide a legal song lyrics service back in April. Song lyrics are returned as non-selectable text — almost like a graphic image, except you can’t save it — and links are provided that allow you to purchase the song (not the lyrics) from Yahoo! Music.

I’m not quite sure how someone can claim copyright to the words of a song after they’ve sold those words to someone else (a band, for instance) but apparently it is possible and it’s going to be the next cool thing to do if you’re part of the music industry.

Lyrics sites out of tune with copyrights [CNET]