Dont Sue Me, Just Pick Up The Phone

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Three companies control the reprint rights to about 80 percent of the world’s song lyrics, or so says Warner Chappell’s Jay Morgenstern. If that’s the case, then it should be relatively easy to license the reprinting of those lyrics and avoid the Music Publisher Association’s threats to take action next year against websites that post song lyrics.

The news of possible litigation was alarming to LyricVault.com founder Brent Payne, a 29-year-old Orange County, Calif., resident who set up his lyrics site in October. But for Payne, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to properly license the lyrics, it was that it was difficult figure out who to pay.

The problem with music copyrights is that one company handles digital/mechanical reproduction, another handles performance, and another handles lyrics themselves. Record labels directed Payne to organizations like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), money in hand.

“We handle public performance,” said ASCAP’s Melody Zimmer. “A reprint of lyrics is not a performance.”

Payne says he was eventually on 3-month loop of redirects or unreturned phone calls.

“I’m willing to pay,” said Payne, “but no one’s helping.”

The question is raised then, how many Brent Paynes are out there who sincerely wish to use copyrighted material fairly, but can’t get in touch with the right people? And are they going to be hit with cease and desist letters or lawsuits?

Payne says he hasn’t received such notices yet, but he’s just begun. His site only gets 1,000 page views a day so far, unlike bigger sites like lyrics.com and sing365.com which, says Payne, generate about 500,000 impressions per day. Payne was beginning to think that size does matter in the music business and that’s why no one was responding to his requests.

Morgenstern disagrees. “It’s not a problem. There are ways to do it,” he said. “If the website is legitimate, you’ll get a license. He’s talking to the wrong people.”

Payne told WebProNews that he’d left several messages with Warner Chappell and had not received a return phone call.

Hal Leonard, another major music lyrics rights holder, did not return phone calls before the publishing of this article.

Dont Sue Me, Just Pick Up The Phone
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