Big Music Apologizes to pearLyrics Guru
Yes, you read that title correctly. Big Music has issued an apology to pearLyrics’ Walter Ritter, the Austrian programmer whose pearLyrics adds song lyrics to Apple’s iTunes environment. According to the Billboard story, pearLyrics had been downloaded about 15,000 times before Ritter removed the application from his Web site on December 6, just after he received a cease and desist letter from music publishing colossus Warner/Chappell Music.
Reporter Bill Werde makes several insightful comments that could serve as a business playbook for Big Music:
[Warner/Chappell’s letter], and the attendant press response, drove the application off of Ritter’s own site and into peer-to-peer land, where it will almost surely be downloaded at far greater rates than it had been pre-hubbub. W/C’s apology was the right move, but may have come as a result of a publicly posted argument from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Not only was Ritter’s application probably legal in the United States, reasoned the EFF, but such threats against U.S. developers could open Warner Music Group to federal liability.
The music industry might want to think these actions through more thoroughly, and not just to avoid legal strife. Dyball’s letter to PearLyrics was copied to Kevin Saul, an Apple Computer lawyer, and links to similar applications quickly disappeared from the Apple Web site. … [By] taking the text from illegal lyrics sites, applications such as Ritter’s — which seek no revenue and are, at least arguably, legal — were taking eyeballs away from, and thus diminishing the ad revenue of the very illegal, very revenue-seeking sites that archive and distribute unlicensed lyrics.
In other words, Big Music again missed the forest for the trees, focusing on what minimal revenue may have been lost instead of focusing on the tremendous opportunities that could have arisen from partnering with technologists who dream up potentially lucrative applications that are beyond the narrow focus of Big Music’s businessmen. I am glad that pearLyrics is — or seems like it will be — back in business, and I applaud the Electronic Frontier Foundation for leveraging the power of the press and blogosphere into shaming Big Music into retreat.
But Big Content’s constant cycle of public relations dunning, hair trigger lawsuits (some of which are legally frivolous), and anticompetitive business activity is tiresome. Here’s a suggestion: eliminate some of the expensive executives that are running your businesses into the ground and begin hiring people that have some fresh ideas about working and making money in a digital environment.
Bill Werde. News Analysis: Publisher Apologizes To Online Lyrics Tool. Billboard. Dec. 15, 2005.
pearworks. Good News for Music/Lyrics Fans After All? Dec. 12, 2005.
CopyCense™: K. Matthew Dames on the intersection of business, law and technology. A business venture of Seso Digital LLC.