Lyrics Sites Illegal? - Business Model

Why isn't it easier to license lyrics for a web site?

Business Model

In the past, the biggest enemy of music sheet sales was the copy machine, and the recommendation the industry offered to combat copyright infringement was simple: Buy more licensed copies of music sheets.

Now that they've identified the internet as a threat, what's their solution?

The music publishing industry is raring to go in 2006 with its plans to take down all those evil sites. But if they succeed in ridding the internet of all their copyrighted lyrics / tablature, then that leaves a huge hole for something that has a good amount of demand. Hopefully they have a legitimate business model on the horizon. It would be great if existing sites had an easy way to license the content.

Part of the fault, however, lies with the publishing industry for not making it easier for Web site operators to license sheet music ... While there are streamlined ways for people to obtain licenses to perform copyrighted songs in public or cover them in recordings, there is no equivalent for lyrics or sheet music...

So says Bob Kohn, author of Kohn on Music Licensing, an authority on the subject. Guess when that quote was published? January 20, 1999 in the article Lyrics posted on Net come under fire [Dan Goodin, CNET]. What progress has happened since then? Not much.

The Harry Fox Agency, a division of the National Music Publishers' Association, has in the past acted on behalf of copyright holders and taken legal action against copyright infringers. They also handle manufacturing and distribution licensing fees for music production. So what is their current procedure if you want to license lyrics?

HFA does not issue print rights - the rights to change the lyrics, or to publish them in printed form. ... To obtain a synch license, print right, or sample clearance, you need to contact the music publisher directly.

Still not streamlined. Still just as convoluted today as it was six years ago.

Previous - Rant | Next - Long History of Cracking Down

About this page: