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Guitar Geeks: Music Tablature Sites Face Legal Crackdown (BBC)


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Song sites face legal crackdown

By Ian Youngs

BBC News entertainment reporter

The music industry is to extend its copyright war by taking legal action against websites offering unlicensed song scores and lyrics.

The US Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents sheet music companies, will launch its first campaign against such sites in 2006.

MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed.

He said unlicensed guitar tabs and song scores were widely available on the internet but were "completely illegal".

Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".

Bitter battles

The move comes after several years of bitter legal battles against unauthorised services allowing users to download recordings for free.

Publishing companies have taken action against websites in the past, but this will be the first co-ordinated legal campaign by the MPA.

The MPA would target "very big sites that people would think are legitimate and very, very popular", Mr Keiser said.

"The Xerox machine was the big usurper of our potential income," he said. "But now the internet is taking more of a bite out of sheet music and printed music sales so we're taking a more proactive stance."

David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers' Association, added his concerns.

"Unauthorised use of lyrics and tablature deprives the songwriter of the ability to make a living, and is no different than stealing," he said.

"Music publishers and songwriters will consider all tools under the law to stop this illegal behaviour."

Sandro del Greco, who runs Tabhall.co.uk, said the issue was not serious enough to warrant jail time and sites like his were not necessarily depriving publishers of income.


"I play the drums mainly but I play the guitar as well. I run the website and I still buy the [tab] books," he said.

"The tabs online aren't deadly accurate so if someone really wants to know it they'll buy the book.

"But most of the bands I listen to don't have tab books to buy so if you get them online, that's the only way you can really learn it unless you work it out yourself."

The campaign comes after lyric-finding software PearLyrics was forced off the internet by a leading music publishing company, Warner Chappell.

'No alternative'

PearLyrics worked with Apple's iTunes, searching the internet to find lyrics for songs in a user's collection.

"I just don't see why PearLyrics should infringe the copyright of Warner Chappell because all I'm doing is searching publicly-available websites," PearLyrics developer Walter Ritter said.

"It would be different if they had an alternative service that also provided lyrics online and also integrated [with iTunes] like PearLyrics did. But they don't offer anything like that at all."

A Warner Chappell statement said the company wanted to ensure songwriters were "fairly compensated for their works and that legitimate sites with accurate lyrics are not undermined by unlicensed sites".

"We have requested that PearWorks provide us with information regarding the sources of their lyrics, and have further asked that they discontinue the service if these sources are operating without a licence."


There are so many bands out there that do not have tab books, and many books for bands I have seen have incorrect tablature while you can sort through online ones until you find a correct one. Plus, you can't know the tabs are wrong until you go home and play their tab and figure out that it is way off or just the vocal melodies (see: Rush tab books).

It's not like stealing music/mp3s because there is only one of the song out there-- for tabs/sheet, there can be many interpretations of a song and one book's assessment is not necessarily correct. This is a pretty sad ordeal. :redpunch:

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This is stupid.

I mean, I hardly ever used the sites or anything, so it doesn't matter, and apparently it is illegal, but I can't imagine how it hurts anything.

I can't even imagine it lowers sales of the actual music books when they're sold. Any amatuer guitar player who just wants a general idea how to play something isn't going to buy the actual music books, but anyone serious enough to really want to learn how it's going to play isn't going to rely on internet tablature(which is usually wrong.

This is stupid.

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