No really, they\'re not kidding

Just when you think that no new act of copyright litigation is shocking anymore, this hits you. The US Music Publishers' Association announced last December that they are going to start suing websites that publish song lyrics and guitar tabs in 1906 2006. If they really think this measure will be just the shot-in-the-arm that the sheet music industry needs, they should start using different drugs. And it's not just shutting websites down and handing out fines, they want jail time for webmasters. For publishing song lyrics.

I know what you're thinking: that's a crime? Since you're not taking it seriously, let's have an illustration of it. Here is the chorus of "Email My Heart" by washed-up white trash Britney Spears:

I'm sorry, oh so sorry, can't you give me one more chance to make it all up to you.
E-mail my heart and say our love will never die
and that I know you're out there and I know that you still care.
Email me back and say our love will stay alive.
Forever, Email my heart.

As you can see, I've done a great disservice to the professional music industry by doing you this favor, providing you with these great song lyrics for free because now you won't go buy the official books. As far as tabs go, if they think a bunch of dirty guitar players are going to drive to the store to drop a lot of money on a book of Extreme guitar tabs, pack a bowl of whatever they're smoking for me. I'd give you the tab for "To Be With You" but, you know, it sucks (unlike "Email My Heart," right?).

Maybe there really is a "digital divide," with music industry professionals on one side and everyone else on the other.

Sorry, Catallarchy superiors, if this lands any of you in jail. Hat tip to Reason's Brickbats for the link.

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Well darn, if they aren’t

Well darn, if they aren’t going to let you read the lyrics, it is going to ruin half the fun. One of the pleasures of listening to such classic rockers as the Rolling Stones or David Bowie was trying to figure out what they were really saying. Some times what they said was weirder than you imagined.

For example Ziggy Star Dust—What I heard: He was the man with God given hands

Real lyrics – He was the nance with God given ass.

Or Misheard: Making love with his eagle.
Misheard: Making love with his beagle.
Misheard: Making love with mosquitos.
Misheard: Making love to a seagull.
Misheard: Making love with a speedo.
Actual: Making love with his ego.

I wonder how long before they outlaw playing lyrics backwards. Such as on

I tried “Stairway to Heaven” on this site and it is remarkable. Hurry before it is too late.

I don't know about the

I don't know about the professional music industry, but you sure did me a disservice by printing that lyric.

Although your post made me

Although your post made me laugh and I agree with you in practice, in principle it seems a little more problematic. I am in favor of copyright law in general, and I think few would argue that it should be illegal to publish, say, one of the Harry Potter books on my personal website. Granted, copying the HP books would definitely create a loss in sales for J.K. Rowling whereas lyrics will do so MUCH less frequently, but I think the point still holds. (And how can you legitimately and objectively come up with a difference between the Goblet of Fire and song lyrics?) If I paint a picture or take a photo, it's copyright protected whether or not it has the capacity to make money.

I know judges in infringement cases tend to rule for fair use if no money is made by the infringers, but I bet most of these lyric-posters are making advertising revenue. I agree with you that it sounds insane that these guys should go to jail -- I think a fine would be more appropriate -- but I'd rather have a consistent body of law dedicated to intellectual property than free reign to use anything anybody's ever devised.

Sarah, I'm not convinced


I'm not convinced that there is an objective way to draw a line in between super-protection and no protection. Could you offer me one?

I know judges in

I know judges in infringement cases tend to rule for fair use if no money is made by the infringers, but I bet most of these lyric-posters are making advertising revenue.

Interestingly that brings up another contradiction in the ideas of intellectual protectionism, namely the nonsensical idea that the same act is somehow unjust if it involves money but just if it doesn't involve money. Similar problems arise with respect to arguing blackmail is a crime; threatening to reveal someone's secrets is not a crime, and asking someone for money is not a crime, but somehow doing the two things simultaneously makes the whole act a crime.

Randall, If by


If by "super-protection" you mean "sending people to jail for posting Britney's stupid lyrics," and by "no protection" you mean doing nothing at all to enforce IP, how about what I suggested? (Namely, a fine.) Drawing an objective line between two arbitrary terms seems outside the scope of the discussion. I don't think there's necessarily an objective way to define the appropriate punishment for any crime, but the point is that the punishment exists and is reasonable and consistent. Obviously in an ideal world I'd like our judges to strive for the most perfect, appropriate punishment that will yield the best results, but I'm not sure what that is (and haven't claimed to).

I think a much more important objective line to draw is the one between fair use and.. um... unfair use. I also don't know where that line lies, but I know it doesn't fall at "Everything is fair use! Copy to your heart's content!" Incidentally, you'll notice that I have conveniently not put forth any better suggestion of the line's true home, but that wasn't the point of my original comment. My point was pretty much just in defense of copyright law, which you seemed to be ignoring.


I'm not sure if your comment was intended as a counter-argument to mine, but I should point out that I don't necessarily think money (or lack thereof) should play a role in determining fair use. I mentioned it only to preempt somebody from responding with, "Sarah, a judge might say it's fair use. Therefore your point is moot and you lose."

Also, I don't think there's anything invalid about the idea of combining two legal acts to create an illegal one. A few examples come to mind:

- Extending your fist is legal, standing less than arm's length from somebody's face is legal, but punching someone in the face is not.
- Demanding money is legal, holding a gun is legal, but robbing a bank is not.

I see your point here, and maybe blackmail shouldn't be a crime, but I don't think this is the best method to convince others of that fact.

Well, the music industry has

Well, the music industry has a point -- reading those lyrics certainly made me less likely to buy the album!