Bad Words: Lyrics Sites Threatened By Music Publishers

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Rap Genius, one of the threatened lyrics sites

Rap Genius, one of the threatened lyrics sites

Do you ever hear a song on the radio, in a restaurant or in a movie, and rather than reach for Shazam, just Google the lyrics? That pastime may soon become impossible, depending on the outcome of legal demands this week. 

 The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), an industry trade association representing songwriters and music publishers, called a press conference this week in which it demanded that the operators of 50 top sites that publish song lyrics remove them. The NMPA claims it is going after not fan sites, but rather sites that earn ad revenue off of the lyrics.

NMPA’s list of “Undesirable Lyric Websites” includes the hip-hop lyrics analysis site Rap Genius, Lyricsmania, Lyrics Translate, Stlyrics, and lyricsreg.

There has been no lawsuit filed, at least not thus far.

According to NMPA’s statement:

 “These lyric sites have ignored the law and profited off the songwriters’ creative works, and NMPA will not allow this to continue,” said NMPA president and CEO David Israelite.  “This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally.  NMPA is targeting fifty sites that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which significantly impacts songwriters’ ability to make a living.

While the music industry’s battles with Napster and other file sharing services have been well-documented over the years, the music has been fighting over lyrics and other non-recorded data for almost as long as there’s been an Internet. OLGA (the Online Guitar Archive), an online repository of guitar chords and tablatures of popular songs, was shuttered in 2006, following a protracted legal battle with the NMPA, the Music Publishers Association and EMI Publishing.

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