When Is A Lyric Site More Than A Lyric Site?
from the used-for-commentary dept
Honestly, if there’s anything more stupid than the music industry and song-writers going after lyrics sites, I can’t imagine what that thing might be. We’ve talked in the past about how short-sighted it is for the profiteers of interest in songs targeting websites that do little beyond promoting interest in those same songs. Even the most obviously single-purpose lyric site that does nothing but post song lyrics is likely innocuous at worst and beneficial to all involved at best. Yet they’re constant targets. Blech.
But sometimes this goes beyond blinder-vision and moves into a complete mis-targeting. That seems to be the case with the inclusion of RapGenius.com on the National Music Publisher’s Association hitlist of sites from their press conference on Monday. The NMPA insisted all sites immediately pull lyrics off the site. RapGenius, for those of you not in the know, is much more than a lyrics site. But, according to one guy that I think I’ve heard of before:
David Lowery, a veteran of the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker who has tracked the sites in his research for the University of Georgia, says they are big business.
“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,” he said. “The lyric business is clearly more valuable in the Internet age.”
What?!? First, it’s hard to square these sites being ignored with their constantly being targeted and sued. Second, to understand what a site like RapGenius is and does, you actually have to look at the site. A cursory glance shows that the entire point of the site is to foster a conversation and commentary around lyrics (and more), their meaning, and their interpretations. This is done through user annotations, fostering a back and forth that often times includes the songwriters themselves. As RapGenius founder Ilan Zechory notes:
“Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site! The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, 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 encyclopedia for annotation of all texts — anyone can upload and annotate texts relating to music, news, literature, religion, science, their personal lives, or anything else they want,” he concluded.
So, the questions are pretty obvious. First, why is the NMPA going after a site that is clothed in several layers of Fair Use armor? And second, why is an association that is supposed to protect the rights of all their songwriting members going after a site that many of them appear to enjoy using. Finally, what the hell kind of good is supposed to come of any of this? I’m not sure what the end-game is supposed to be for the NMPA, but this looks like a massive swing-and-a-miss to me. Oh, and it should be noted that people appear to have posted Techdirt articles to RapGenius as well, and everyone at Techdirt thinks that’s great. We’d actually be really pissed off if some misguided attempt to squeeze money out of the site meant that our own content was held back and less widely distributed.