A California district court has ruled that it’s definitely still not okay to steal from people in the music industry, even if they’re just lowly music publishers. Judge George H. Wu served LiveUniverse.com and its owner, MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, with a $6.6 million default judgment on Tuesday for posting the lyrics to 528 songs, including TLC’s “Waterfalls,” without permission on multiple websites owned by the company. This should come as a surprise to music consumers because who knew that posting lyrics online was illegal? Certainly not the hundreds of sites that do it regularly.
Ross Charap, a lawyer representing the publishers, told Ars Technica on Thursday that the suit was filed in order to persuade more sites to adhere to licensing requirements. And although the plaintiffs—Peermusic, Bug Music, and Warner Chappell Music—originally hoped to “persuade” potential violators by winning $100,000 per song from Greenspan, the judge reduced the punishment to $12,500 to avoid disproportionate damages. [Source.]
Healthy industries don’t generally spend a lot of time suing those who provide non-competitive complementary services to their customer base, yet this is exactly what we find the music industry doing. Posting lyrics online does not generally dissuade potential customers from buying music (if I had to guess, I would bet that reading lyrics is generally a post-consumption event that generally enhances the listening experience). In fact, lyrics aren’t even substitute goods. Thus, the only reason to sue lyric providers is to get money from them directly; it is not to prevent the cannibalization of sales.
As such, this act is befitting an industry in desperation, and surely forebodes its demise. Between the internet, the general growth of technology, and the ever-decreasing costs and ever-decreasing barriers to producing quality music, it would seem that the megalithic corporate-based music industry is not long for this world. To which I say good riddance.