Music piracy doesn’t just apply to illegal downloads; it also applies to lyrics. This point was made clear yesterday as the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) announced it has sent takedown notices to 50 unlicensed lyrics websites for copyright infringement.
The move was largely based upon the research of David Lowery, a University of Georgia researcher (also a founder of bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker), whose findings indicate that a large number of websites posting unlicensed lyrics are generating large amounts of ad revenue that is not being shared with the songwriters.
“Unlicensed lyric sites are largely ignored as copyright infringers, but in fact these sites generate huge web traffic and involve more money than one might think,” Lowery says. “The lyric business is clearly more valuable in the Internet age.”
In a press conference yesterday, NMPA president and CEO David Israelite clarified the move: “These lyric sites have ignored the law and profited off the songwriters’ creative works, and NMPA will not allow this to continue. This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally. NMPA is targeting fifty sites that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which significantly impacts songwriters’ ability to make a living.”
According to the NMPA, about half of all page views for lyrics worldwide take place on unlicensed sites. Google registers about 5 million searches for lyrics daily. Not all lyrics websites are operating illegally; for example, Lowery specifically cites the popular lyrics site AZLyrics.com as a fully licensed site which is among the highest ranked 500 websites worldwide.
For the websites receiving takedown notices, the NMPA plans to take further legal action unless the lyrics are either properly licensed or taken offline.