Song lyrics are one of the most sought after forms of content on the web today, people like to know the lyric of the popular songs. For example, every month 675.000 people look for a phrase: “take me to church lyrics” that refers to a song “Take me to church” by Irish musician Hozier.
Websites that publish these lyrics attract people who want to learn about the “words” of the song.
Why Song Lyrics Websites Are Illegal
Yet not everybody realizes that many of these websites are illegal. Song lyrics are copyright materials the same way as books and music are. It seems logical and fair that songwriters are paid for the work, right? Websites that display lyrics should pay copyright fees, however too often this is not the case.
Websites display song lyrics without the author’s permission or any payment. They simply are involved in illegal activity and are robbing songwriters who not always are the rich celebrities. Many unknown songwriters have a “normal” job and count every penny.
Websites that are popular among song lyrics seekers are quite lucrative for their owners; the more people that visit a website, the more money website owners get for displaying ads. However, if these lyric sites don’t pay copyright fees and ignore the law to profit off the songwriters’ creative works, it is classified as copyright infringement.
The trade group NMPA (National Music Publishers Association) represents tens of thousands of songwriters and has demonstrated that thousands of websites are actively reprinting song lyrics without permission to do so. They have no licenses to print these lyrics but make huge profits on displayed ads because lyrics sites attract enormous traffic.
The NMPA indicates that every day there are over 5 million searches on Google for song lyrics and that over half of the lyrics pageviews are unlicensed, so illegal.
Copyright law is applied to anyone hosting copyrighted material as a hobby and someone who is or aims to be profiting from it.
When posting lyrics is legal
If you want to post song lyrics on your blog or use it as a part of a bigger project, it will qualify as “fair use”, particularly if you are using only partial lyrics in a transformative work. For example, it’s absolutely fair use to quote a couple of lines as part of set of questions in an English test when the lyrics are used just as an example or to motivate students like it’s done in this GED Language prep lesson.
Otherwise, keep this in mind: copyright law is applied to anyone hosting copyrighted material as a hobby and someone who is or aims to be profiting from it.
How to license the lyrics?
There are two sites that license lyrics: LyricFind and MusiXmatch. While LyricsFind will send you to its partners, MusiXmath has a very transparent policy.
MusiXmath has a huge Lyrics Database. They hold a catalog of more than 7 million lyrics in more than 50 distinct languages. The catalog is updated daily with more than 5 million artists and more than 43 million music tracks that can be licensed in a simple way by using so-called “API”.
MusiXmath charges for web and mobile use per CPM (1,000 lyrics views by end users) for not under 1,4 US$ CPM. This means that when 100.000 people see the lyrics, the website owners will pay $140, and based on our experience we can predict that their revenue from displaying ads to 100.000 people will be no less than $600.
Implementation and publishing the lyrics on the website is done automatically with a help of “API” and payment is straightforward and affordable so there is hope that licensing lyrics will become standard procedure.
It’s worth to mention that the NMPA (National Music Publishers Association) began a legal action against this kind of sites that break the law by illegally publishing copyrighted materials.