Lyric Site Legality

Over the past few months I’ve been developing a lyric site where users can add their own lyrics to our database… with little advertisement, surprisingly, it’s become quite popular. My question basically is, how legal are lyric sites? I did some researching in the US Code ( and I think I am allowed to “archive” lyrics (provided I don’t charge for them, which I dont), but I’m still not sure.

Your thoughts would be appreciated! :slight_smile:

I believe since they’re “interpretations” of lyrics, you might be in the clear.

Like everything else on the Net, there was a lot of legal tussling over this. OLGA (On-Line Guitar Archive) ran into trouble with music publishers because they archived lyrics and chords. I’m not sure what the result of that was, but the site still exists. You may want to check their site for more information.

But I’ve seen a number of sites, some by the artists themselves, some not, that gave lyrics only, so you might be safe there. Generally, if a publisher objects, you may have to stay away from their musicians unless you want to take the trouble and expense to take it to court. That, or call their bluff and let 'em sue you (some companies issue ‘cease and desist’ e-mails in an attempt to cow you; of course, you won’t know whichs ones were truly serious in shutting you down until the subpoenas start flying).

You might want to look into the sad history of They used to have a nice site with lots of lyrics. Well, they got sued for copyright infringement by the National Music Publishers’ Association, and ended up having to pay licensing fees to the Harry Fox Agency in order to keep alive. (And no more user-supplied lyrics either.) Now the site is a pathetic imation of its past that forces people to use a Java applet to view lyrics, just so they won’t cut-and-paste them. :frowning: You think I’m kidding, just check out this over the tope copyright statement they have now. Yikes.

You’d better be prepared to defend yourself in court and then pay through the nose. Publication of lyrics anywhere had always been considered copyright infringement. Even the use of an excerpt requires the permission of the copyright holder.

The copyright holder will indeed first issue a “cease and desist” order. But you have no chance of beating them in court. You are in clear violation of copyright if you publish the lyrics without permission (BTW, before someone objects with a term they’ve heard but probably don’t understand, it is not “fair use”). The best lawyer in the world won’t be able to get you off (he’d probably advise you to follow the order), and you can be stuck paying penalties AND the plaintiff’s legal costs.

Read the copyright law. The only exception for “archiving purposes” specifically refers to libraries, not individuals, and only to replace a copy the library owns when the original is ruined and there is no way to buy a replacement. (Copyright Law, Section 108©). What you describe doesn’t come close to this.

**Smack Fu[/b} That “over the top” copyright statement merely states the legalities involved. The site was breaking the law. It was only allowed to continue if it prevented others from also breaking copyright law by making copies without permission.

Addendum: If you are only publishing lyrics sent to you and written by your users, then you’re in the clear. The people sending you the lyrics are giving you permission to use them – as long as they are the copyright holders, they can do this. You might want to cover yourself legally by indicating that by sending you the lyrics, people are granting you the right to put them online and be willing to take down any lyrics if the writer asks you.

However, if they send lyrics they don’t hold copyright to, you’re in hot water. was my favorite lyrics site but its no more. I used to find the songs people asked for here at that site.

What they did was people would translate songs & type them out & submit them to that site & you could search through them.

I think you might have a loophole if you did printed lyrics for the deaf. It should be protected by the ADA. Deaf people could visit your site & see what the lyrics are since they can’t hear them. That would be a tricky one for the music industry to fight.

Sorry, handy, but no. The ADA can’t be an excuse for copyright theft. You can put up lyrics only if you have permission, and copyright law doesn’t give a loophole just because it’s a good cause.

All the ADA requires is that you make your site accessible. If deaf people want to read the lyrics, they can get that information legally from the same sources that hearing people can get them – sheet music, lyric sheets supplied with the CD, etc. The ADA certainly doesn’t require that people break other laws to provide access.

Do I become the “Lyric Napster” then? I don’t provide the lyrics but I provide a means for someone to post the lyrics for someone else to get? Am I still liable?

If you are trying to avoid legal entanglements the napster modle in not one to copy. They are loosing their legal battles and will soon go out of buisness or be changed into something very different from what they are now.

& search for online lyric sites & see what sort of disclaimers they use.

As gazpacho points out, Napster isn’t a good model to follow.

Yes. Napster was. You can’t provide any lyrics you don’t have the right to provide. Unless the person sending you the lyrics is the copyright holder he doesn’t have the right to send you a copy of the lyrics.

You’d need permission to do this legally. If Bruce Springsteen says, “Put my lyrics on your web page,” you’re in the clear. If Joe Pirate says, “put these Springsteen lyrics on your web page,” you’re on very shaky ground.

You can read them in

Also, I believe that which is a sponsor of computer chronicles, has tons of all the old songs online.

“Sorry, handy, but no. The ADA can’t be an excuse for copyright theft. You can put up lyrics only if you have
permission, and copyright law doesn’t give a loophole just because it’s a good cause.”

It’s a great cause. I would love to know what the lyrics are. Im sure all the deaf organizations in the US would stand behind it & fight for it.

Handy – I doubt it, no more that the deaf organizations would stand behind going to hearing aid companies and stealing hearing aids. If you want to find the lyrics, you can find them the same way anyone else does – buy sheet music or look at the lyrics printed on CDs. As a matter of fact, being deaf has no effect on finding the written lyrics of a song.

So the ADA doesn’t work on two counts – there’s no discrimination and it does not condone breaking other laws to provide access.