I read today that pearworks has been forced to discontinue distribution of their awesome pearLyrics widget--this handy tool downloaded and displayed the lyrics for the currently-playing iTunes song. pearworks received a cease and decist letter from Warner/Chappell Music Limited, requiring that pearLyrics be removed from distribution. You can read more about it here on the pearLyrics site.
The reason for this posting, though, isn't to try to start a groundswell of opinion to get pearLyrics back on the market (though that would be a nice outcome). Instead, there's a Big Picture item here that I just don't get: why do the record companies care about the distribution of lyrics? Regardless of whether I own a CD by Band X or not, why does any record company care if there are lyrics servers out there distributing the words Band X's music? I understand that the lyrics are copyrighted, but it's not like the words do a lot of good to anyone without the music (do they? Is that what I'm missing?). And this isn't a case where someone's done something like scanned the latest Grisham novel and put it online for download--in that case, the product is the words, and the artist is clearly damaged by the distribution of the scanned words. But with songs, the words themselvese aren't really good for much of anything without the accompanying music and vocals, right? So why do the record companies care?
To me, this is completely 100% backwards from how it should be--I would think record companies would want people distributing lyrics to songs. That way, someone might stumble across a song with interesting words, and then go out and (gasp!) purchase the song. Instead, the record companies are going out of their way to prevent the distribution of lyrics. Can someone brighter than I explain exactly why they're concerned about this? Like Windows and $50,000+ Cadillac pickup trucks, I just don't get it, so I assume I must be missing something obvious.