Lyric websites have been a staple of music-related search results since the start of the millenium, but the format of presenting lyrics on many of these sites has remained mainly the same since their inception: plain text with no supplementary information or interactivity. Perhaps the most notable innovator in the genre is Genius — formerly known as Rap Genius, the site’s sidebar annotations now extend to multiple genres and even outside the music sphere to news and entertainment, and infrastructure to help “annotate any page on the Internet” is currently in beta. Google recently began showing lyrics in their search result pages as part of their Knowledge Graph, but beyond requiring a click through to the song available for purchase in their Google Play store for access to the full lyrics, their method of displaying lyrics is no more advanced. Even despite sidebar-comment approaches similar to Genius in other industries, including notes on content platform Medium and annotations on Quartz articles, most lyrics-dedicated sites have been stagnant and unimaginative.
For an abridged version of this paper, see this page.
Though the practice of covering previously-performed songs has been prevalent in music history for several decades, many new artists looking to build their profiles in the modern music industry release cover songs by currently popular artists, often putting a unique spin on their performance in order to showcase their stylistic originality and also gain the interest of fans to support their careers. However, copyright laws are a problematic issue that many artists must face in order to legally release and sometimes profit from their reworked cover versions. Artists need to be aware of copyright laws when posting and selling covers to ensure that they are working within the law, but when done successfully, they can use cover songs as an effective method of building a fanbase and boosting their musical career. This paper will analyze and critique the current copyright system and how it relates to song covers, particularly those that are posted and released through the video-sharing website YouTube. After an introduction covering the history and variants of cover songs, a deeper analysis of copyright law on YouTube and in the music industry will follow, along with case studies of how they can both help and hinder artistic creativity for developing artists using YouTube as a platform for which to promote their music careers.
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