ZDNet on lyrics sites

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Here's an item on a songwriter's attempts to fight online lyrics sites.  Unfortunately, it's mostly about him trying to get Google to punish such sites through its position as search engine and advertising provider, which of course is a stupid approach.  Even if Google were willing to assume responsibility for enforcing copyrights on the entire world like that, it wouldn't be a good idea and nobody should be asking for that.  But although the article is about a stupid campaign, I'm linking to it anyway to highlight something of current interest:  the people using those lyrics sites, and often even the people who operate them, don't realize that tension exists between copyright and what they're doing.  They depend, as a matter of course without even thinking about it, on excuses like "we're non-profit (even if we sell ads)!" or "this is fair use!" or other, even flimsier, excuses.  They're sitting ducks for any copyright holder who cares to issue a DMCA notice.  It's another example of the assumption that copyright law is about literal satisfaction of technical criteria rather than having boundaries that actually matter in a real way.

Back when the On-Line Guitar Archive was active, the party line among users there was that if you listened to a song and tried to write down the lyrics and chords, you were creating a new work called a "lyrics interpretation" on which YOU, not the songwriter, held copyright.  Then, of course, it was perfectly okay for you to share that on the Net without permission from the songwriter.  Many thousands of users managed to convince themselves that that theory was true.  It does sort of sound reasonable:  lyrics and chords can be hard to recognize from a recording, so it could be claimed that there's a creative process involved in coming up with musically sensible words and sounds to match a recording.  I saw one poor fellow nearly reduced to tears at a seminar I attended in that era, when he asked the lawyer giving the seminar whether the "lyrics interpretation" theory was correct, attempted to explain that the answer he got wasn't true, and the presenter didn't go for it.  Wishing for a separate "interpretation" copyright doesn't cause one to exist - but there's also not much hope of communicating effectively with people who've read so much of their own propaganda that they've lost contact with consensus reality.

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Comments

owen from 74.119.251.106 at Sat, 18 Aug 2007 00:29:31 +0000:
But I thought you could take any old pre-existing thing and add "on the internet" to have something totally new and freely patentable!

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