This is a sad time for all those of us with a passion for music and song lyrics. As of December 6th, 2005 pearLyrics is no longer available due to a cease and desist letter from Warner/Chappell Music Limited. As a freeware developer I can not afford to risk a law suit against such a big company, although personally I don't see where pearLyrics should infringe any copyrights handled by them. After all pearLyrics only searches and accesses publicly available websites, displays, and, at the users wish, caches its content. Something that can easily be done with any combination of search engine and webbrowser too. Well, but I'm just a developer and not a lawyer.
I feel very sorry for all users of pearLyrics who provided me with such great feedback - I would have loved to provide them with even further enhanced versions.
What disconcerts/disappoints me most however is that now, after fighting against illegal filesharing (something I can fully understand) and trying to shut down lyrics sites, Warner/Chappell seems to want to dictate Internet users what applications they are allowed to use for searching and browsing content on publicly available websites. I am not sure if they actually checked pearLyrics for what it does, or if they just thought, hey, let's try and just send a cease and desist letter, after all, this is just a little freeware developer and he won't risk standing up against us anyway. If they did realize that pearLyrics is just a highly specialized webbrowser, then, well, then it is indeed a black day for the freedom of Internet and the users choice of tools to use. Well, maybe they don't like caching, but then again, any webbrowser and even all the search engines use caching techniques, so where is the point? Could it be that those companies are too powerful for them to sue? And more importantly, what's next? Forbidding text editors because one might type copyrighted song lyrics? Or is it just that pearLyrics makes it too easy to find song lyrics?
I have tried to convince Warner/Chappell twice that their cease and desist letter might just be based on a big misconception of what pearLyrics is all about, especially since they mention the MGM/Grokster case as example. However my mails remained unanswered.
Instead of the MGM/Grokster case comparison they've brought up I think the Paperboy case [Az. I ZR 259/00 - also known as Deep Link case] (see this "The Register" article) would be a much closer match. Here the Deutsche Bundesgerichtshof concluded, that any information freely presented on the Internet is meant for public access, in which form ever, and therefore its access can not be resticted by law. Website providers need to take appropriate actions, if they don't want their content to be accessible by unauthorized means. At least that's my interpretation, but again, I am not a lawyer.
A quick check at Apple's widget download site also reveals that most of the lyrics widgets are gone now too.
If anyone out there has any legal advice regarding this topic, I would be incredibly happy for any suggestion. For example, if I have bought an album, am I allowed to save and view lyrics of that album on my computer? I mean, I surely can hear the words, but am I allowed to read them? Also, would it help to simply put up a dialog box the first time that makes the obvious obvious and states that pearLyrics grants no licence over the lyrics it displays, but rather assumes that users already have one? That it's all just for personal use? What about international considerations...?
Anyway, thank you very much for listening and please, don't let this ruin your passion for music and song lyrics. And keep on supporting the artists by buying their works.
(*)pearLyrics is (or should I say was) a Mac OS X tool for displaying song lyrics of the track currently played in iTunes. Song lyrics are fetched either directly from the music file via iTunes, from text files in a local directory, or are searched and fetched from publicly available websites. For faster access next time it provides an option to cache found lyrics from the Internet locally (depending on the users choice either as a text file in an Application Support folder or directly in iTunes).
Disclaimer: note that everything I mentioned here is based on my personal opinion only and I am by no means an expert of copyright laws, quite the contrary is true.I am also vastly disappointed by the fact that my spare time work of the past months has ceased to exist, due to a simple letter (even delivered as a word document, I mean hey, come on folks, is this a joke?). So my point of view might be slightly biased.
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