Nov 12

Startup RapGenius among 50 websites served take-down notices by music publishers

Color me unsurprised today, after learning that RapGenius and 49 other lyric sites were smacked with take-down notices by the NMPA.

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I shuttered a song lyrics project of my own a few months back – mostly due to legal concerns of this very nature. For those wondering, obtaining a blanket license to “re-publish” lyrics online from someone like musiXmatch starts around $20k/year.

Many sites choose not to license their content, and have been flying under the radar for years. For those sites already ranking on the first page of Google like RapGenius, and the poorly designed (but fully-legal) A-Z Lyrics, this can be huge business.

This press release by the National Music Publishers’ Association mentions that they've previously litigated and received judgments of more than $7 million dollars on behalf of its members. Inside, it cites a study listing the top 50 “undesirable” lyric sites, which is what prompted the shit-storm.

From the study…

…there is anecdotal evidence that these lyric websites generate huge web traffic and may involve more money than one might think. For example, we have found that the fully licensed frequently ranks in the Top 500 websites in the U.S. Based on the popularity of lyric searches, it is possible that unlike the sound recording business, the lyric business may be more valuable in the Internet age.

The NMPA has promised ”further legal action against sites that are unwilling to license or remove infringing content”.

The study determined the worst offenders by using something David Lowery calls the “lyric website undesirability index”. To see whether or not a site has a license, Lowery cross-referenced the LyricsSeal database.

So who exactly is David Lowery?

You might be familiar with the name, as he co-founded the 90s rock band Cracker. It's interesting that a one-time successful musician is the one leading the charge against these lyrics sites, as generally I believe they provide more exposure for the artists and a chance to connect with their music. (At least that's what we tried to do with Lyricful)

Things to watch

With last year's $6.6M dollar judgement against LiveUniverse setting a precedent here, it'll be interesting to see if further legal action is taken against the sites named in the report.

It would be downright insane for RapGenius not to have licensed their content, especially since their bank account is flush with VC dollars.

Written by Seth Banks

Seth spends most of his days leading the design team at Green Bits and improving Cashboard. Occasionally he finds time to write about music, design, startups, and technology.

Tagged: business, startups, lyricful