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Chords & Lyrics search engine - Copyright

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:23 pm    Post subject: Chords & Lyrics search engine - Copyright Reply with quote


My name is Gilad, I live in Israel.

I'm thinking of starting a website/mobile app that displays chords & lyrics to popular songs.
I realize this normally requires licenses from the artists / licensing organizations such as CISAC or BMI. Would I also have to pay royalties per number of views or something?

HOWEVER - what if I build my site/App so that it doesn't host any of this data by itself, but instead, takes it from other websites, and just displays it cleverly?
Kind of like the website "Chordie" from what I read on their "support the artists" page, Chordie holds no responsibility for copyright issues for the songs. Is this true?

Thank you!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Gilad

Welcome to the forum.

I am not that familiar with the Israeli law on copyright to be able to give a specific answer, but I think that you would certainly need to get licences to display the lyrics of songs, although I am less sure about the chords. As a non musician I would be pretty sure that chords, or even sequences of chords, alone would not qualify for copyright, unless the melody was also present. And I have no idea which licensing model might be applied if you went down that route. You should check with the Israeli copyright collecting society for lyricists and composers known as ACUM (אקו"ם) for more details.

As for linking to sites which do host the lyrics, this ought not to be a problem because as you indicate, your server would not host any of the potentially infringing material, so you would not be copying it. The problem lies with the interpretation of the phrase 'making a work available to the public' which you can find in Israeli law as section 15 of the Copyright Act 2007. The phrase (making something available to the public) was introduced into the lexicon of international copyright law by Article 8 of the World Intellectual Property Organisation's (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, to which Israel is a signatory. However, different jurisdictions have developed slightly different interpretations about whether just linking does or does not make something available to the public. Here in Europe we are still awaiting a definitive statement from the Court of Justice of the European Union, following a number of recent decisions which appear to say linking doesn't infringe, even where the material being linked to is actually infringing. Elsewhere the courts have found that intermediaries who link to pirated material can also be found liable if they have sufficient knowledge about the illegality of the other site. I know you are not suggesting that you would deliberately link to sites holding illegal material, but quite often it is impossible to know how legal or otherwise is the material on other people's sites. The music industry has been battling Google for years on this issue, and since the service you are talking about is like a specialised search engine, you too might become a target of the record labels, especially if Israeli law takes a broad view of what making available means.

The second thing to consider (and watch out for, in case it leads to other problems) is the level at which you link. Deep linking to a specific page deep within another website, without going there via the home page, can sometimes be contrary to the terms of service of a site, especially where this allows visitors to circumvent adverts or counters which generate revenue for these sites. Although that has nothing to do with copyright, it could become a source of friction if your 'clients' are constantly found to be flouting the rules of another site. This can become even more contentious if you are earning revenue by harvesting the fruits of other people's labours. Within the European Union, there is something called database right (see the EU Directive for more details) which provides protection fairly similar to copyright for databases which have been compiled using skill and effort. While there don't appear to be any similar provisions in Israeli law, I may have missed it.

If you decide not to go with the licensing option, I would advise you to speak to an Israeli lawyer about the legal situation there, regarding any liability for linking and databases.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:18 pm    Post subject: Wow! What a reply! Reply with quote

Wow, I didn't expect such a detailed, serious answer!
Thank you so much! Smile
You've shed a lot of light on this subject, from here I feel I can go on with this information!
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