December 09, 2005

jail time for publishing lyrics and tab

Great, here comes the next salvo in the music industry's continuing War on Customers. Sites that share unlicensed lyrics, scores and tabulature are robbing songwriters of their ability to make a living, and must be shut down.

The Beeb reports:

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".

I have two things to say about this, my apologies if they are as obvious to you as they seem to me.

One. Music fans obsess over lyrics, pick out songs on our guitars, and so forth, because we love the music, not because we want to steal from musicians or songwriters or even the industry suits. The more access we have to the songs and stories and ephemera that surround the music, the more loyal and devoted fans we become. Music is a joint creation between the artists who write and arrange and perform, and the fans who bring our hearts and emotions and create the context for the music to flow. Tightening the screws on copyright of lyrics and notes by threatening to send us to jail makes us angry and sad, and much less sympathetic to the business side of the industry.

Two. Most of the lyric and tab sites out there suck. Quality is a mixed bag, coverage of artists and songs is spotty, and the ever-increasing amount of spam, spyware and general pop-up ridiculousness is making things worse over time. Hello Music Publishers, there's a blue-light special opportunity for someone to make a really great service here, you think maybe? You've got the rights to so much great material, an enormous base of obsessed customers, and...oh, wait...look at this global distribution network Internet thingy that reaches hundreds of millions of people with credit cards. It just wouldn't be that hard to be the best service on the planet, and it would almost certainly expand your business opportunity by twice to tenfold.

So MPA, what's it going to be? I guess you've gotta ask yourself, "Why am I in this business?" If it's just for the money, then go ahead and betray your customers the way the RIAA and MPAA have done. But if it has anything to do with the love of music, then how about joining the clueful 21st century and keeping the faith with the rest of us fans?

Update 08/21/06: This story reared its ugly head again today, as more tab sites received shutdown notices and the NY Times picked up the thread.

Posted by Gene at December 9, 2005 04:13 PM


Itís good to see that the music industry is still on message: that message being, our customers are criminals who we plan to alienate and enrage. Frankly, these kind of tactics make me look forward to the day when the whole industry transforms or goes belly up.

Posted by: Milan Ilnyckyj at December 9, 2005 08:25 PM

This is the most fucking retarded thing i have ever herd in my life! Persones that want to make tabs or music sheets are intitled by LAW to do so.They are not stealing from what ever band they are helping all of us out by posting these tabs because some people either do not have the money for such aquirements or just dont want to. Thus we should be able to download tabs.Further more most bands arent popular enough to have the're own official tabbooks printed.So i think your all stupid and should go to jail yourself's for trying to pass this bullshit claim.So stop fucking trying to boss everyone around you stupid sons of a bitch's and help out poor people dumbass's.Stop creating problems and solve some.
Good day

Posted by: You Are Fuckin Dumb at December 22, 2005 07:14 PM

Could you try to make my songs that I wroteby myself get noticed? I already have 9 songs. Please help me out! Thanks for listening and understanding.

Posted by: Brianna at January 8, 2006 05:14 PM