Having failed to take down online file-sharing services, the music industry has set its sights on lyrics websites, with the National Music Publishers Association recently levelling 50 websites, who they believe have not obtained proper publishing licenses, with take-down notices.
Among the sites in the NMPA’s crosshairs is popular hip-hop lyric annotation website, Rap Genius, who last year scored a $15 million investment from Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, and who reacted somewhat enthusiastically to the NMPA’s actions.
“We can’t wait to have a conversation with [the NMPA] about how all writers can participate in and benefit from the Rap Genius knowledge project,” said site co-founder Ilan Zechory, according to Billboard, having explained that his NY-based company had not yet officially heard from the NMPA.
“Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site!” Zechory continued. “The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics…Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics…and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers.”
“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 encyclopaedia for annotation of all texts,” added Zechory.
However, David Israelite, Chief Executive of the NMPA, said his organisation is not setting out to target fan sites, but commercial websites who reap a profit from publishing material for which they haven’t procured a license.
“This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally,” said Israelite, insisting the NMPA “is targeting fifty sites that engage in blatant illegal behaviour,” and citing that unlicensed lyric sites receive over 50 per cent of lyric page views.
Israelite explained that the take-down notices precede the filing of copyright infringement lawsuits, should the notices remain unheeded. Israelite’s organisation has previously filed successful lawsuits against sites such as Peer Music, Bug Music, and Motive Force.
The 50 sites targeted by the NMPA were chosen after being identified in a report published in October by University of Georgia researcher David Lowery, as likely not having licenses for their content, and who stand to generate considerable revenue “in the Internet age.”