I confess that back when buying an album on CD was a big part of my life, I was always offended when the booklet didn’t contain the lyrics – really, they couldn’t just throw in the words for my $14.99? The internet abhors a vacuum, and so lyrics sites were created – many, many lyrics sites, many of which were completely unlicensed (and sometimes contained incorrect lyrics). Lyrics enjoy copyright protection just as much as the notes which comprise the song (or, in what may be a more appropriate comparison, just as much as a poem). Joseph Plambeck in the New York Times offers a look at the ongoing evolution of lyrics websites: Lyrics Sites at Center of Fight Over Royalties.
Music publishers have partnered with rights clearinghouses such as Gracenote and LyricFind to offer licenses to websites who wish to reproduce protected lyrics. As the story notes, while revenue generation is modest at this point in time, it is anticipated to grow – particularly since successful lyrics sites, such as the Vancouver-based MetroLyrics, are evidently enjoying annual revenues of around $10 million.