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Only criminals ask for free guitar tabs

Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:56 pm

Song sites face legal crackdown
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter
Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005

The music industry is to extend its copyright war by taking legal action against websites offering unlicensed song scores and lyrics.

The Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents US sheet music companies, will launch its first campaign against such sites in 2006.

MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed.

He said unlicensed guitar tabs and song scores were widely available on the internet but were "completely illegal".

Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".

Bitter battles

The move comes after several years of bitter legal battles against unauthorised services allowing users to download recordings for free.

Publishing companies have taken action against websites in the past, but this will be the first co-ordinated legal campaign by the MPA.

The MPA would target "very big sites that people would think are legitimate and very, very popular", Mr Keiser said.

"The Xerox machine was the big usurper of our potential income," he said. "But now the internet is taking more of a bite out of sheet music and printed music sales so we're taking a more proactive stance."

David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers' Association, added his concerns.

"Unauthorised use of lyrics and tablature deprives the songwriter of the ability to make a living, and is no different than stealing," he said.

"Music publishers and songwriters will consider all tools under the law to stop this illegal behaviour."

Sandro del Greco, who runs, said the issue was not serious enough to warrant jail time and sites like his were not necessarily depriving publishers of income.


"I play the drums mainly but I play the guitar as well. I run the website and I still buy the [tab] books," he said.

"The tabs online aren't deadly accurate so if someone really wants to know it they'll buy the book.

"But most of the bands I listen to don't have tab books to buy so if you get them online, that's the only way you can really learn it unless you work it out yourself."

The campaign comes after lyric-finding software PearLyrics was forced off the internet by a leading music publishing company, Warner Chappell.

'No alternative'

PearLyrics worked with Apple's iTunes, searching the internet to find lyrics for songs in a user's collection.

"I just don't see why PearLyrics should infringe the copyright of Warner Chappell because all I'm doing is searching publicly-available websites," PearLyrics developer Walter Ritter said.

"It would be different if they had an alternative service that also provided lyrics online and also integrated [with iTunes] like PearLyrics did. But they don't offer anything like that at all."

A Warner Chappell statement said the company wanted to ensure songwriters were "fairly compensated for their works and that legitimate sites with accurate lyrics are not undermined by unlicensed sites".

"We have requested that PearWorks provide us with information regarding the sources of their lyrics, and have further asked that they discontinue the service if these sources are operating without a licence."

Copyright BBC

Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:02 pm

Music giants bear down on lyric search apps
Wednesday 7th December 2005

Several developers of Mac software that search the Web for song lyrics have been issued with cease and desist orders by one of the big four record companies.

Walter Ritter, author of the pearLyrics application and widget that automatically searches the Web for song lyrics and adds them to the lyrics field in iTunes, said that he had been contacted by Warner/Chappell Music and asked to remove the software or face legal action.

'As a freeware developer I can not afford to risk a law suit against such a big company, although personally I don't see where pearLyrics should infringe any copyrights handled by them,' he writes in a statement on his website. 'After all pearLyrics only searches and accesses publicly available websites, displays, and, at the users wish, caches its content. Something that can easily be done with any combination of search engine and webbrowser too. Well, but I'm just a developer and not a lawyer.'

This latest move, which has also resulted in the disappearance from Apple's Dashboard pages of most of the lyrics widgets, is thought to be part of a wider campaign to prevent the publication and distribution of lyrics on the Internet. They are, after all, copyrighted.

According to Witter the letter he received drew parallel between the distribution of lyrics and the sharing of music via p2p networks.

'What disconcerts/disappoints me most however is that now, after fighting against illegal filesharing (something I can fully understand) and trying to shut down lyrics sites, Warner/Chappell seems to want to dictate Internet users what applications they are allowed to use for searching and browsing content on publicly available websites,' he says. 'I am not sure if they actually checked pearLyrics for what it does, or if they just thought, hey, let's try and just send a cease and desist letter, after all, this is just a little freeware developer and he won't risk standing up against us anyway.'

He adds that Warner/Chappell declined to respond to the two mails he sent, in which he argued that they may just have misunderstood what pearLyrics is about.

'If they did realize that pearLyrics is just a highly specialized webbrowser, then, well, then it is indeed a black day for the freedom of Internet and the users choice of tools to use,' he writes. 'Well, maybe they don't like caching, but then again, any webbrowser and even all the search engines use caching techniques, so where is the point? Could it be that those companies are too powerful for them to sue? And more importantly, what's next? Forbidding text editors because one might type copyrighted song lyrics?'

© Copyright Dennis Publishing

Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:08 pm

wow - If I were a Song Tab/Lyric website owner, and facing prosecution,
I'd need a lawyer, and I'd say:

Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody!

Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:48 am

I think the impression here is that there is some big pot of money being made and there just isn't. Most people that check an internet lyric site do so to satisfy a bet or their own curiousity or to find a song they like. These are not the type of people who are going to buy the sheet music for a record.

Sheet music sales went out with the horse and buggy. Most people learn records today by memory and mimicking the record. The serious musicians who do buy sheet music are not going to risk getting an improper notation on the internet and the couple bucks they save is not worth it. The only people who do heavily take advantage of sheet for public play are people like music teachers who are trying to provide an education for their students on an .89 cent budget. Again though even here, and this is left out of all the pieces written on this subject, any entity that publicly plays music- like a bar, a radio station etc. has to pay money into a pool that is divided amonged all affiliated songwriters to cover any potential play of their songs. The same thing goes for CDs and tapes, when you buy a blank tape or a CD you pay a tax that goes to cover royalty fees. (Even though here there is a complaint because I believe the songwriter- always and in my opinion unfairly favored over the performer- is paid from this pool but the performers are not.)

To me, though this is kind of an example of the government to order we've had in this country for so long. Just because a powerful interest group balks about something, lawmakers shouldn't just jump to action.

Wed Dec 14, 2005 9:46 am

talk about a lame attempt to make a mountain of money out of a business that has been reduced to the size of a mole hill for decades.

only people who actually buy sheet music are music teachers and kids learning instruments.

and frankly, if my collection of piano sheet music is anything to go by, beethoven can't really get paid anymore, can he?