Monday, November 11, 2013

Posting Song Lyrics at Memorial Sites

Dear Rich: Can you post song lyrics at an online memorial site such as those offered by legacy.com if you credit the author of the lyrics? I have found the lyrics printed on at least five other sites, including Wikipedia. When you use legacy.com you agree, to their terms of service which state:
You agree not to Submit any Material that ... contains copyrighted content (copyrighted articles, illustrations, images, lyrics, photos, audio, video, poems, text, or other content) without the express permission of the owner of the copyrights in the content.
So, if you're the kind of person who abides by all the rules (i.e., you never enter through the exit at Costco) then you probably wouldn't post copyrighted lyrics. If you're the kind of person who disregards terms of service, then the next consideration is whether the copyright owner (or legacy.com's administrators) will notice the infringement, and if so, whether they will do anything about it. We think the answer to both questions is "No." In any case, it's hard to imagine a song publisher suing someone for infringement over a memorial posting. The bad publicity on that would surpass even the Macarena fall-out. Finally, crediting the author won't excuse infringement, and the "everybody else is doing it" defense (applicable in some situations) also won't fly.