Continuing on its charm offensive, the music industry is apparently not satisfied with the $675,000 fine for sharing 30 songs imposed on Joel Tenenbaum or the $1.92 million Jammie Thomas-Rasset was hit with for illegally downloading 24 tunes. Now it is going after the lyrics pirates.
The what? Well, exactly. But apparently three music publishers have filed copyright infringement suites against a couple of sites which display song lyrics so you can sing along while the music plays. According to an article in Billboard the two businesses concerned, Liveuniverse Inc and Motive Force LLC, have been accused of "exploiting unlicensed lyrics for profit through the operation of four web sites."
The National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) accuses the businesses and their owners of engaging in willful copyright infringement on a vast scale. A press release explaining the action says "These sites are profiting on the backs of songwriters. It is unfortunate that copyright holders must so frequently divert energies to protect their rights to license and distribute their works. However, the demand for music prompts a seemingly endless stream of illegal business models."
The NMPA argues that music fans are the losers when free lyrics are posted online, and made available with iPhone apps for example when music is playing, because licensed businesses cannot prosper in the face of unlicensed competition. But some fans have been making it clear by posting to various forums online that they think just the opposite, with applications and websites removing the ability to display lyrics in fear of being sued themselves.
I think they, the fans, have a point. I cannot actually recall ever being tempted into going out and buying some sheet music to get the lyrics of a song. However, I have been known to buy more music by an artist when I have access to the words of the music I have already bought. Remember, in this digital age the CD sleeve with the lyrics printed inside has died out, why should I not be able to get those lyrics in the most convenient format and for free?
Until I see the details of how much money the music publishers are losing because of lyrics piracy I think I will choose to believe it's just a sinking industry desperate to screw fans out of every last penny before it finally dies. Here's a thought, Mr Music Industry Man, why not change your business model to adapt to the modern world instead of hitting music fans with the biggest sticks you can find at every available opportunity?