LyricWiki API Runs Into Trouble Over Lyric Licensing

Andres Ferrate
Aug. 06 2009, 02:32AM EDT

In another example of the ongoing battle over copyright, LyricWiki, the popular song lyric index and wiki, recently announced a major change that significantly reduces the functionality of its API (our LyricWiki API Profile). Although the API has not been shut down completely, the recent modification removes the core functionality that allows users to retrieve song lyrics.

Sean Colombo, LyricWiki's founder, posted the news on the LyricWiki Google Group, citing the need to downsize the API's functionality due to licensing agreements. As Sean explains:

Unfortunately, licensing agreements with the biggest publishers in the music industry require us to no longer offer the ability for programmatic access to LyricWiki's collection of lyrics.

We tried to arrange some way to let API Developers license through us,but this was not possible.

While this is not something we are happy about, it is a necessity in order to finally secure licensing for LyricWiki from the major publishers which will allow the project to survive indefinitely.

Although the API is still accessible, it's functionality is limited to viewing discographies and matching a single song to a corresponding LyricWiki URL so that users can be linked to it. This is unfortunate news for both developers utilizing the API for various apps as well as for end users who rely on these apps.

Developers have create a range of apps that integrate LyricWiki's API including the 18 LyricWiki mashups listed here. Just earlier this year we reported on 25 Mashups for Music Lyrics, a post in which we cited how contentious copyright issues around lyrics can be and how the LyricWiki FAQ even talks about how they've tried to work with publishers.

Sean's post on the news does include some ideas for how developers can migrate their apps and mashups to continue to utilize the API.

LyricWiki

Despite the news, there is hope that as LyricWiki formalizes its relationship with publishers it may be able to release some lyrics via its API. For now, the news serves as a reminder of how dynamic and unpredictable the web API ecosystem is, especially in the music space, where producers and publishers continue to adhere to strict licensing practices.

Andres Ferrate

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To be honest, it sounds like they wanted to become legal and soon you'll see lyricwiki serving gracenote lyrics just like metrolyrics. That's like abandoning you're own users if you ask me. The entire gracenote library was and still is user contributions. Thank good for lyricsfly.

I was actually surprised that LyricWiki (which I really liked and showed to my students a couple of years ago) had an API that was as functional as it was. Too bad for music lovers that LyricWiki has been forced into a more restricted mode.

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