Unlicensed lyrics incur big penalties

Music publishers win $6.6 million from LiveUniverse

Web company LiveUniverse has been ordered to pay $6.6 million in damages to a group of music publishers including Warner/Chappell, Peermusic and Bug Music for posting unlicensed song lyrics.

The default judgment ruling was handed down earlier this week in a California district court, and is the first of its kind in punishing unlicensed lyric sites.

Though the role of music publishers in distributing lyrics and sheet music often seems nearly archaic, lyrics sites are a highly-trafficked commodity on the web, and the publishers’ suit alleged copyright infringement of 528 songs, including tunes by Green Day, Bob Seeger, David Bowie and Van Morrison.

As the publishers’ counsel Ross Charap noted in a statement, the plaintiffs pursued such a large settlement in the hope that it would “serve as a warning to persuade illegal lyric site operators that it makes good business sense to become licensed and avoid having their site shut down and damages awarded against them.”

LiveUniverse, which was started in 2005 by MySpace co-founder Bob Greenspan, was ordered to remove unlicensed lyrics from its sites back in 2010.

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