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Self-Defeating Old Economy Dinosaurs

What are the executives at Warner Chappelle thinking? I don't know precisely, but this London Telegraph article suggests that they're not thinking much:

The internet download wars hotted up this week with one of the world's biggest music companies, Warner Chappell, leading a crackdown on websites that offer free song lyrics, scores and guitar licks.

Someone translate this into terms that a five year old, or your average record label executive, can understand: the market has changed. You can pay a bundle of very expensive lawyers a lot of money to shut down a service like pearLyrics, or you can use such services to boost your profits.

This week I've bought four songs off iTunes. I watch TV programs (sometimes on the Warner-Chappell associated WB, if the channel flips right), and twice this week I've heard a catchy tune that I wanted to buy. Sadly, I didn't know what the song was, so what did I do?

That's right, I typed the lyrics into Google, found the artist at a lyrics site and exercised my right as an impulse-driven consumer to put a buck in Daddy Warnerbuck's pockets through iTunes.

I haven't bought a whole album in over a year. The folder of CDs in my corner? The dust bunnies roam freely over its fake leather exterior. Those useless, scratchable CDs have all been ripped into iTunes and copied to the iPod, making the media itself little more than a waste of shelf space. And before the record execs in my readership start crying "Napster," I don't download illegally. I pay my $.99 to Napster and Musicmatch like a good little boy.

First, Sony feels it can hijack my computer when I rip a CD. Now, Warner Chappell not only failed to make even a half-assed digital distribution system before being beaten to the punch by Steve Jobs, but it's trying to shut down an easy, effective service that I can use to put money in Warner pockets.

Here's a hint, WB Head Honchos: for a fraction of what you'll pay your lawyers trying to shut down every lyrics site on the net, you could send a team of programmers over to Pearworks. They could help the author to make sure that when a user searches for your lyrics, your site comes up as the first and most definitive source for your artist. Most lyrics sites, after all, are bare-bones operations crowded with irrelevant popups, while you could give users not only lyrics but the background of their soon-to-be-new-favorite band. And you could cross-market to your little heart's content. (I know you know how to do this. Every WB teen drama now pushes its (WB) Song of the Week no matter how improbable or ill-connected to the show. It's even easier to cross-market online, WBster!.)

Instead, you're going to frustrate listeners by taking away something that makes it easier for them to find you. I've heard it said that lawyers are the most-despised occupation in American society. Record company executives are obviously jealous and jockeying for position.

(via the Conspiracy)


Tony, Why is it okay to infringe a copyright on the lyrics and not to infringe it on the sound recording? The record company (assuming they own the copyright to the lyrics) should have the right to drive traffic to its own site for lyric searches.
Avi: Maybe they should have the right to do so, Avi, but the fact remains that most record companies have been singularly poor at actually doing this. There's no reason that they couldn't enter the market with a much better tool than pearLyrics and then shut them down. I'll yield to you the legal argument, and merely point out that even if it's legal for a company to do something, if that something will annoy your customers and make it more difficult to buy from you, it's pretty dumb.
There's also the problem that many record companies, from what I can tell, don't post lyrics at all. If someone listens to the song and writes down what he thinks it's saying (and note that many of the online transcripts of songs have errors), this doesn't seem like much of a copyright violation. Why shouldn't it be fair use of a song to write down what you hear? A profit-making performance of those lyrics, on the other hand...

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