The latest in the ongoing list of cool and handy web upgrades made to streaming service Spotify is a new ‘Lyrics’ button that will deliver users from lyrics from MusixMatch, which will scroll across the screen karaoke style. You can see the new function in action below.
We must say, it’s a pretty cool new addition to the ever-expanding streaming platform. While Spotify has been delivering lyrics under an agreement with MusixMatch for some time, the way in which it displays them has changed, allowing any user to have a karaoke machine on their personal computer.
There’s only one problem with the new feature, it could be completely illegal. As Hypebot reports, Spotify’s new lyrics feature may actually place the Stockholm-based company in violation of US copyright law, so says Joseph C Vangieri, CEO of karaoke provider DigiTrax.
Starting with the basics, US copyright law considers karaoke a special use and allows songwriters to opt out of having their songs used in that manner. Artists including ABBA, Coldplay, and Aussies Frente! and Savage Garden (who aren’t actually on Spotify) are among those who haven’t licensed karaoke use of their songs in the US.
While DigiTrax has licensed more than 17,000 tracks in the US, in an an open letter addressed to industry trades, the company’s CEO has questioned whether or not Spotify and MusixMatch have done the same for all of the artists in Spotify’s extensive catalog.
“So how is Spotify getting around getting video sync license for this feature?” Vangieri asks. There are a great many song writers who will not allow “karaoke” of their songs. This is unfair competition for us American “Karaoke” companies. Can you weigh in on this? It is a big part of the Copyright law. Meaning does the law apply to everyone?”
“Karaoke should be a multi-billion dollar industry in America, but because the lyric synchronized to the music is a video sync, each song must be cleared,” the DigiTrax top dog continues. “How is Spotify getting away with this?”
The central question that Vangieri raises in his open letter revolved around how lyrics, which have long been available on Spotify, are now displayed. Specifically, the issue is whether or not songwriters and publishers feel that lyrics that ‘move’ instead of having a karaoke ball bouncing constitutes a sync, and therefore requires an additional license.