News: Rap Genius Makes Surprise Move After Serious Take-Down Threats

Friday, Nov 15, 2013 11:55AM

Written by Biz Jones

Popular website Rap Genius is responding to heat shot its way courtesy of take-down notices by making a strong power move to secure licensing from labels this week.

According to reports, Rap Genius has already sought out and landed licensing through renowned label Sony/ATV.

It's been reported today that the guys no longer have to cop pleas, at least not for Sony/ATV artists. The label chairman and CEO Martin Bandier issued a statement to Billboard to announce the a licensing deal with Rap Genius, noting that the site uses a "new and exciting way" to bring musicians and their fans together. According Tom Lehman, another Rap Genius co-founder, the Sillicon Valley-funded startup is in other licensing conversations, aiming to expand their relationships with publishers and songwiters. The NMPA noted on Monday night via press release that they're only aiming to shut down websites "that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which significantly impacts songwriters' ability to make a living." These licensing deals should help to exempt Rap Genius (and, presumably, Rock Genius) from potential copyright infringement lawsuits. (Complex)

Reports earlier this week revealed action was already in the works with take-down notices being issued to select sites.

David Israelite, the president of the trade group, said that his organization was filing take-down notices against what it called the 50 "worst offenders" based on a web search conducted by David Lowery, a researcher at the University of Georgia. "These lyric sites have ignored the law and profited off the songwriters' creative works, and N.M.P.A. will not allow this to continue," Mr. Israelite said in a statement, referring to his organization. "This is not a campaign against personal blogs, fan sites or the many websites that provide lyrics legally. N.M.P.A. is targeting 50 sites that engage in blatant illegal behavior, which significantly impacts songwriters' ability to make a living." (The New York Times)

The widely visited overnight site was one of the key targets.

No. 1 on Mr. Lowery's "Undesirable Lyric Website List" may come as a surprise to many fans: Rap Genius, whose detailed annotations of hip-hop songs -- sometimes scholarly, sometimes farcical -- are widely cited by journalists and bloggers. Last year, the site attracted a $15 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capital firms. In October, according to comScore, 5.3 million unique visitors from desktop computers in the United States went to Rap Genius. (New York Times)

Rap Genius founder Ilan Zechory had issued a statement regarding the controversy earlier in the week.

"The lyrics sites the N.M.P.A. refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowdsourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers. These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars." (Statement)

A year ago, Rap Genius blew up after landing a $15 million investment.

"I'm delighted to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is investing $15 million in Rap Genius. Given that Rap Genius is a web site where people explain rap lyrics, and given that my partner Ben is a noted rap fanatic , your first reaction might be, "That Horowitz guy has completely lost his mind ." I, on the other hand, find rap every bit as comprehensible as ancient Mesopotamian . That's why I'm writing this blog post - not him. Let me explain why we've invested in Rap Genius..." (Rap Genius)

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