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Major lyrics site Rap Genius to seek song licenses in light of takedown notice

Earlier this week, the National Music Publishers Association announced that they had threatened 50 websites with copyright-infringement lawsuits for posting song lyrics. Specifically, the NMPA targeted websites with advertising, arguing that the sites were profiting from material that they did not own. In other words, the music industry suddenly realized that someone other than them was making money, which cannot stand.

One of the biggest sites under threat from the NMPA was Rap Genius, which goes beyond the simple practice of reposting song lyrics by providing exhaustive annotations of individual lines. (It turns out that many songs by Snoop Dogg contain references to smoking marijuana.) However, The New York Times is reporting that Rap Genius has actually had a licensing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing since earlier this year and that it would be officially obtaining the rights to use the lyrics it posts from now on. Rap Genius seems to have taken this route because it’s easier than fighting legal battles, but David Israelite, the NMPA’s president, sounds like he’s taking it more as an admission of guilt—Israelite huffed that Rap Genius’ agreement is only “a first step toward becoming a fully licensed site.”

No word yet on whether or not the 49 other sites facing the lawsuit also have secret deals in place, but music publishers are probably crossing its fingers that they don’t.

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