The National Music Publishers Association has taken a preemptive step to stop websites from using unlicensed song lyrics, Billboard.biz reports. On Monday (Nov. 11) the NMPA sent a take-down notice to popular New York-based company RapGenius.com and 50 other sites that allegedly "engage in blatant illegal behavior."
The move was fueled by Camper Van Beethoven member and University of Georgia researcher David Lowery's October report on the "lyric business," which he argues is "more valuable" given the "internet age," and constructed a "lyric website undesirability index" to determine each site's level of potential copyright infringement.
As such, the NMPA claims that over 5 million people Google the word "lyrics" daily, which allows "commercial" lyric sites to thrive illegally. Rap Genius for example is noted as the "Wikipedia of rap" and has expanded to include speech lyrics, poetry and other forms of the written word. The company, which launched in 2011, recently landed a $15 million investment from Silicon Valley-based venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, and has no ads on the site.
Rap Genuis co-founder Ilan Zechory said they haven't heard from the NMPA but "can't wait to have a conversation with them," about how "all writers" can benefit from "the Rap Genius knowledge project."
Zechory pointed out that, unlike the other domains targeted, RapGenius.com is more than a lyrical destination. "The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowd sourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers," he said. "These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars. Furthermore, music is only a small part of what we do. Rap Genius is an interactive encyclopedia for annotation of all texts — anyone can upload and annotate texts relating to music, news, literature, religion, science, their personal lives, or anything else they want."
However, NMPA president David Isrealite asserts that that pending legal action isn't personal. "This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally," he said.
Although it is unclear how much money is up for grabs, the NMPA has won similar battles in the past, including last year's $3.6 million court victory against now defunct lyric site LiveUniverse.
Provided that the newly targeted sites don't comply with their demands, the NMPA is prepared to file copyright infringement lawsuits.
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(photo: National Music Publishers Association)