Hey, Let’s Sue the Interface!

From Dan Miller at MacWorld: Walter Ritter is the developer behind pearlyrics, a nifty little Dashboard widget. It did one simple but very useful thing: It searched the Internet for the lyrics to the song you were playing in iTunes, displayed those lyrics on the Dashboard, and copied them…

From Dan Miller at MacWorld:

Walter Ritter is the developer behind pearlyrics, a nifty little Dashboard widget. It did one simple but very useful thing: It searched the Internet for the lyrics to the song you were playing in iTunes, displayed those lyrics on the Dashboard, and copied them into the song’s iTunes Lyrics field. It certainly wasn’t the only lyrics widget out there, but it’s the one that several of us here at Macworld liked.

Unfortunately, pearlyrics is no more. Last week, Ritter received a letter from Warner Chappell Music—“one of the world’s largest music publishers,” its Web site proudly proclaims—telling him to cease and desist. Being a modest freeware developer with no legal budget, he did.

As I say, there are plenty of lyrics widgets out there. Ritter has heard of only one other developer who’s received a similar cease-and-desist letter. So big whoop, you say, a couple of minor-league widget-makers must turn their hands to something else. But I think it’s weird: Why is one of the world’s largest music publishers bothering to go after a couple of lowly widget makers?

..Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation… has a theory. This may just be “a dry run for a much broader campaign in New Year.” The target of that campaign? Web sites that publish music lyrics.

… von Lohmann isn’t just being paranoid. The Music Publishers’ Association has said it wants to crack down on lyrics sites.

Dashboard widgets are for Mac OS only, but this is an interesting case in that the search engine is being blamed for infringing. So, if this company can sue on this principle, they best sue Google, Yahoo, and MSN next. Right? Right? G*damn assclowns. (Hey, it’s Friday, I’m allowed a rant).

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

9 thoughts on “Hey, Let’s Sue the Interface!”

  1. So someone can sue a widget maker for facilitating a crime but you can’t sue a gun manufacturer? You really do have to love the American legal system.

  2. If anyone was suing anyone, I would have figured it would be Apple going after the widget-makers for cracking iTunes.

    BTW, you can get widgets for Windows too… Konfabulator comes to mind. It has widgets that can be used on any OS. I’ve personally used another iTunes interface to download album names and covers from Amazon the mp3s (DRM-free, of course) on my hard drive. One would have thought this would have been even higher on the list for music companies to sue.

  3. INSTEAD OF STIFlING CREATIVITY,
    The practical solution would have been to PARTNER with the developer/technology, perhaps music lovers would NOT mind paying an extra few cents to use this technology with their ITUNES download,… knowing that they are in fact helping the Songwriters and Publishers.

  4. Excellent point SEW. Old media often sees threats where they should be seeing … opportunities … this are the correct words, i think the same like Joe

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