Publisher's Association Says Rap Genius Is 'Blatantly Illegal'

NMPA issues takedown notices to 50 sites ahead of copyright infringement lawsuits

Rap Genius Takedown Lyrics Site Lawsuit NMPA Illegal
2 Chainz is endlessly quotable, true, but those quotes are copyrighted Photo by Getty Images
Chris Martins WRITTEN BY
Chris Martins

The controversial, well-funded Rap Genius site is among 50 lyrics sites being hit with stern takedown notices from the National Music Publishers Association. The trade organization's goal is "to protect its members' property rights on the legislative, litigation, and regulatory fronts," and the NMPA alleges that the word hubs, many of which have been monetized via ad sales, are engaging in "blatant illegal behavior."

This according to the association's chief executive David Israelite, who elaborated to Billboard that "this is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites, or the many websites that provide lyrics legally." That said, his group's research contends that of the 5 million or so lyrics search that hit Google daily, more than 50 percent of the resulting page-views go to sites that are not licensed to share the artists' work or words.

Rap Genius differs from most lyrics sites in that it is built to allow and encourage line-by-line annotation from its online community. The New York-based company received a $15 million infusion last year courtesy of Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, and many artists have contributed their own notes and explanations to the song entries. Co-founder Ilan Zechory sounded confident in a statement issued to Billboard:

"We can't wait to have a conversation with them about how all writers can participate in and benefit from the Rap Genius knowledge project. Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site! The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers.

"These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars. Furthermore, music is only a small part of what we do. Rap Genius is an interactive encyclopedia for annotation of all texts - anyone can upload and annotate texts relating to music, news, literature, religion, science, their personal lives, or anything else they want."

He might want to keep those other projects on the hush for now, so as to avoid further unwanted attention. The NMPA made it clear that if the takedown notices are not respected, copyright infringement lawsuits will follow. The Rap Genius team isn't exactly know for their sensitivity in handling criticism.

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