There are a few stories about the record industry’s recent moves against sites hosting song lyrics. Just on a week ago, CIO Today magazine has an article entitled Online Music Wars Take New Turn, which cites MPA president Lauren Keiser as saying in a BBC interview that his goal is not just to shut down the sites and levy fines, but also to get authorities to “throw in some jail time,” which he believes will make the group’s campaign “a little more effective.”

A couple of days later, Wired magazine carried a story about Warner Chappell Music sending an apology to the developer of a Mac Dashboard widget which allowed the display of song lyrics–even though neither the widget nor the developer’s site hosted any lyrics, but just retrieved them from other sites on the web. Of note, the story reads:

Thousands downloaded the program, and Apple Computer linked to it from But in early December, Ritter received a letter from Warner Chappell comparing the tool to Grokster and file-sharing networks that distribute copyright material without permission. The music publisher threatened legal action if the distribution of pearLyrics did not cease.

“I was surprised,” Ritter told Wired News. “I couldn’t believe it and I thought they must be misinterpreting what pearLyrics does — that we must be hosting or distributing lyrics and making money from it. But I didn’t want to risk a trial, so I took it down.”

Dictionary definition of “chilling effect”, anyone?

There must be a fair-use issue lurking here somewhere, at least for those who don’t profit by the display of lyrics, given that they’re not being used in a song, and really only make sense to those who have already bought the music (or are looking at buying it).