The publishers complain that tablature sites post parts of copyrighted sheet music without paying royalties to composers. "People can get it for free on the Internet, and it's hurting the songwriters," Lauren Keiser, president of the Music Publishers' Association, told the Times.
But the publisher of Guitar Tab Universe contends sites like his promotes guitar playing and, in turn, propels sales of sheet music. "The publishers can't dispute the fact that the popularity of playing guitar has exploded because of sites like mine," the Times quotes Robert Balch. "And any person that buys a guitar book during their lifetime, that money goes to the publishers."
I feel a compromise is coming, with guitar tablature sites paying some type of royalty. These sites draw lots of traffic, which then attracts advertisers. The paper cites a study by comScore Media Metrix, an Internet statistics service, showing that Ultimate-Guitar.com attracted 1.4 million visitors in July, twice the number from a year earlier. There's just too much money at stake for both sides to not allow these sites to operate.