The Electronic Frontier Foundation today issued an open letter to Warner Music Group arguing that the label's legal battle against PearLyrics is wrong-headed. Snip from blog post by EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann:
When I buy a CD, I look forward to having the lyrics printed in the liner notes. That's part of what I expect in exchange for my money.
If the record label omits the lyrics, I feel I'm entirely within my fair use rights to listen closely to the recording and copy down the lyrics. Similarly, I'm within my fair use rights when I use a search engine to find the lyrics of the music I've legitimately purchased.
And thanks to Apple's iTunes software, I now can add those lyrics to the digital copies of the music I've purchased and have them appear when the song plays on my iPod.
Apparently, at least one music publisher thinks that makes me a music pirate. Yes, annotating music I've legitimately purchased with lyrics makes me a pirate, according to music publishing giant Warner/Chappell.
Warner/Chappell sent a cease & desist letter last week to the developer of pearLyrics, a piece of software that automates the process of adding lyrics to iTunes tracks. (For more details, see the MacWorld review.) The developer is apparently located in Austria, and I cannot comment on how Austrian law might apply.
But Warner/Chappell doesn't have a legal leg to stand on here in the U.S., and EFF is sending an open letter to them today to caution them from using their legal threats to chill American software developers and music fans.
Link to full text of Fred's comments, and the letter.
Reader Comment: Cecily Lynn Steele says,
I am a good friend to someone who is hard of hearing, she is also my tutor in American Sign Language. It's odd, it was just the other day we were chatting about how she listens to music. The ONLY way in which she can fully understand the lyrics to music is to have someone go through the lyrics with her. We sit down, with a lyrics sheet, and point through the words (word by word) as each is sung. After doing this a few times, she's memorized the lyrics and can understand them without the words in front of her.
However, without this assistance of the always-available lyric sheets printed on CD inserts, a tool like pearLyrics (in conjunction with iTunes), or someone laboriously writing them down for her, she has no access to this medium she enjoys so tremendously. Search-engines and particularly pearLyrics makes it easy for her to have access to the lyrics without the assistance of a second person, and come to understand the music that she listens to.
I'm sure that Warner Music certainly did not have any idea that they were shutting out hundreds of hearing impaired persons like my friend from enjoying the little music they can hear when they decided to begin this ridiculous battle.