Trying to decode rap lyrics, as rich as they often are in regional slang and obscure references, can be like watching a foreign-language movie without subtitles. For instance, on "A Queens Story," what does
Last week, however, the National Music Publishers Assn. — a trade association for the companies that own the copyrights to musical compositions and lyrics — sent Rap Genius and 49 other websites takedown notices demanding that they remove some of the lyrics they'd posted. The group said that if the sites didn't obtain licenses for all of the lyrics they'd posted, it would sue them for copyright infringement.
The publishers' epic rap battle with Rap Genius appears to have ended almost as quickly as it began, however. The site revealed Thursday that it had already struck a deal with the largest of the publishers, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, before the association sent its takedown notice. And on Monday, the association announced that it was in talks with the site and putting its legal fight on hold.
Music publishers have been trying to crack down on unlicensed lyrics sites for years, and they've persuaded at least 30 online sources of lyrics to strike deals. Typically, lyrics sites do little more than offer a searchable database of song lyrics, yet the publishers association contends that they can generate a substantial amount of revenue by running advertisements. The unlicensed sites draw viewers away from the licensed ones, cutting the royalties the latter pay to copyright holders.