Earlier this week, the National Music Publishers’ Association issued a take-down notice to 50 song lyric websites in a report titled “Top 50 Undesirable Lyric Websites Oct. 22nd 2013.” The report accused the 50 lyric sites of providing unlicensed lyrical descriptions of songs that are protected by various copyrights. Finishing at the coveted No. 1 spot among the alleged copyright violators was the hip-hop lyric and peer-editing community RapGenius.com, which allows users to add rap lyrics and analyze them bar-by-bar via a community forum. The people at Rap Genius quickly defended& their service to The New York Times, calling their website an “interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars.”
Now Billboard is reporting that a deal had already been reached between Rap Genius and Sony/ATV Music Publishing earlier this year that makes much of the lyrical content on the hip-hop website legal to distribute. The key word, of course, is ‘much.’ Not all the lyrics on Rap Genius are still legally free to distribute, and as Billboard notes, the sometimes complex nature of songwriting means that a song can have “multiple writers and multiple publishers” and “some songs in the Sony/ATV catalog are not yet fully licensed.”
NMPA President and CEO David Israelite has assured the public that the NMPA’s job is not to bully these sites and shut them down for good. Rather, he wants to facilitate fair licensing deals among all the alleged violators.
“We simply want those that are making money off lyrics to be business partners with the songwriters who created the content that is the basis of the sites,” said Israelite. Since Sony/ATV holds the distributing rights to approximately 31 percent of the global music market, an agreement between the publisher and the increasingly popular lyric website seems like a no-brainer. Neither party has mentioned the possibility of expanding the breadth of their partnership agreement at this time.