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Q: Lyric Copyright ( Answered,   6 Comments )
Subject: Lyric Copyright
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: form3hide-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 27 May 2002 10:58 PDT
Expires: 03 Jun 2002 10:58 PDT
Question ID: 18309
Is it legal to display artists' lyrics on my website and to have ADs
pay for the hosting of these lyrics?
Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
Answered By: joseleon-ga on 27 May 2002 11:50 PDT
Hello, form3hide:

This is a very interesting question, and I have done some research on
it, at first, what you get is a lot of pages about the Title 17 of the
copyright law of the United States:

"The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code)
governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of
copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law,
libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other
reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy
or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private
study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or
later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of
"fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This
institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if,
it its judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of
copyright law."

This can be read as the lyrics on your site are copyright protected
and may be used for private study, scolarship or academic research
only. Commercial use is prohibited.

This could be enough for you because you are not selling the lyrics,
you place them on the web, advise your visitors are copyright
protected and the way they can use them. You are not infringing any
kind of copyright law, because you are not selling anything copied.

But in any case, we must be sure before close this question, it's an
important matter. I found another page about a real case:

"The International Lyrics Server, a popular Web site containing the
words to more than 100,000 songs, was closed last week after music
publishers accused the site's Switzerland-based operators of copyright
violations and police officers seized their computers, the site's
founder said. Karl Aschminn, the prosecutor in charge of the case for
the Swiss canton of Basel, confirmed that a criminal investigation was
underway, but he declined to respond to additional questions. Pascal
de Vries, a network consultant in Basel who founded the site in
February 1997, said that when the Lyrics Server was active, it
received an average of a million hits per day from 100,000 visitors
seeking the words to chart-topping songs by bands like the Rolling
Stones and Aerosmith, as well as to show tunes and obscure ditties.
The database could by searched by song title, artist name or key

Copyright & Public Domain Issues Reprints

Copyright Issues or The Gr$$n-eyed Monster?

At the end of this article is something interesting:

"On October 27th, 1998, a new law called The Digital Millenium
Copyright Act was signed (Public Law 105-298).This law helps bring the
U.S. into uniformity with the World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) treaty. While a lengthy law, its main orientation is towards
"stored copyrighted materials" and supports the right for libraries
and archives to contain copyrighted materials for non-commercial
purposes. There is a procedure outlined by which a publisher may ask
that material be removed from an archive, but there are no liabilities
on the part of the archive site for the storage of copyrighted
materials. There is a requirement which every archive site should meet
(including the owners of list servers) to provide contact information
to the U.S. Copyright Office of a "designated agent" -- a person whom
a copyright holder can contact. It is our opinion that it is extremely
unlikely that a copyright holder will ever contact an archive site's
designated agent when language, as we use, is provided to indicate the
"fair use" aspect of its dissemination and storage."

Digital Millenium Copyright Act

Article about Digital Millenium Copyright Act

Copyright Website

Music Copyright
(read the advice at the top of the page)

Copyright on the web

The conclusion in this research is you can put lyrics on a web if you
put somewhere visible a copyright notice about the intended use of the
lyrics and you don't sell any lyric and your page doesn't make the
copyright owners loose money.
I hope this could help you.


Search Terms:

lyrics copyright court case lawyers

"The Digital Millenium Copyright Act" Lyrics

song Lyrics copyright violation
Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: matrym-ga on 27 May 2002 12:04 PDT
I believe your case will be helped if you comment/criticize the lyrics.
Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: webadept-ga on 27 May 2002 12:41 PDT
Since you are selling advertisement on the webpage, that does make you
a commercial site, not a personal one, so even if you aren't "selling"
the lyrics you are selling the page. That will probably cross the line
under the DMCA.

I would suggest a lawyer to get envolved. 

Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: joseleon-ga on 27 May 2002 12:45 PDT
Of course, we are not lawyers, and this research doesn't substitute a
lawyer, but the DMCA is about the "purpose" of that content and the
"fair use" of the content. Also the DMCA allows a publisher to retire
a content from a website. Agree with you about the lawyer.
Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: missy-ga on 27 May 2002 12:46 PDT
Brad Templeton's "10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained" should be
required reading for anyone with copyright questions:

"[...]copyright is -- basically the legal exclusive right of the
author of a creative work to control the copying of that work."

[ ]

He has also written an introduction to copyright here:

[ ]

...which includes links to several copyright FAQs.

If you have put those lyrics up without explicit permission from the
author of the lyrics, then you are technically violating his/her

As matrym said, however, you may be covered by Fair Use laws if you're
offering detailed commentary and/or criticism of the lyrics in
question - on the same page as the lyrics.

Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: form3hide-ga on 27 May 2002 13:37 PDT
" believe your case will be helped if you comment/criticize the
lyrics. "

Right now, my users can critique the lyrics and give them their
meanings to the song.

I want to use ADs to simply pay off the large amount of bandwidth we
use.  I
Subject: Re: Lyric Copyright
From: mvguy-ga on 27 May 2002 16:47 PDT
Definitely get a lawyer who's a copyright expert involved in this. 
The law is much more limiting than the official answer above suggests,
to the point that I believe the answer verges on being misleading.  If
you are using the lyrics in any way to draw people to your site,
especially if it has ads on it, you're probably violating the

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