A little over a year ago, we talked about the first legal lyrics repository on the internet. Turns out, these legal sites are realizing they cannot compete with unauthorized sites that actually give the user what they want: searchable, copy-and-pastable lyrics.
“We’ve had what we call modest success,” said Michael Spiegleman, senior director of Yahoo Music, the first company to adopt Gracenote‘s lyrics content more than a year ago. “It provides a fairly decent level of traffic, but it didn’t take off quite to the extent that we originally projected.”
So-called “rogue” lyrics sites — which display song lyrics without any permission from, or payment to, the publishers that hold the copyrights — still dominate the field. Because they’ve been around longer, they rank higher in Internet search results and therefore get the majority of traffic.
“The fact is, we don’t rank that highly,” said Howie Fung, senior product manager for Rhapsody.com, which licenses the LyricFind service. “There are so many illegal sites out there that it’s kind of tough to break through the rankings, so that hasn’t worked out as well as we would have liked.”
It’s not because “they’ve been around longer” that the unauthorized lyrics sites rank higher; it’s because their pages actually contain the text of the lyrics that the consumer is searching for. The authorized sites are crippled with a kind of DRM that renders them virtually useless by displaying what is in effect just a graphic image of the lyrics: not actual text. Search engines index text, and rank their results based on matching text (among other things).
The National Music Publishers’ Association is an atavistic relic of a bygone era that predates recorded music. The reality of the matter is that lyrics are just facts. And the Supreme Court has already decided that you can’t copyright facts.