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Google Prevails In Lawsuit With Genius Over Song Lyrics Transcriptions

The lyric-listing website Genius had filed a lawsuit accusing Google of scraping song lyrics that are aggregated by users on Genius, but the appeal was declined on the basis that Google uses third-party companies.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined an appeal from “world's biggest collection of song lyrics and musical knowledge” website Genius in breach-of-contract claims against Google. In claims made by Genius, Google has allegedly published transcribed lyrics in search engine results that were sourced and unlicensed.

Per Reuters, the website – formerly known as RapGenius – said Google winning the lawsuit could result in big tech companies stealing content without consequences from websites that aggregate user-created information like Wikipedia and Reddit. Genius does not hold copyrights in the lyrics, as it generally belongs to artists and publishers, but the website has long accused Google of violating its terms of service by allegedly plagiarizing and reposting lyrics.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda accepted the Supreme Court’s decision. "We license lyrics on Google Search from third parties, and we do not crawl or scrape websites to source lyrics," Castaneda said.

The denied U.S. Supreme Court appeal isn’t the first time Genius and Google have clashed. In 2019, Genius sued Google in New York state court, accusing the search engine of copying and posting lyric transcripts at the top of search results without permission. According to Genius, the web traffic is diverted to Google instead of the website it originated from, pointing out that lyrics on Genius were “watermarked.” Google denied the accusations, saying that lyrics were licensed through a partnership with Canadian company LyricFind.

Six months later, Genius filed a lawsuit against Google and LyricFind for a minimum of $50 million, but the latter also denied lifting content from Genius. Dismissed in August 2020, a presiding judge found that because Genius does not hold rights to the original lyrics, they were not in legal standing to file the lawsuit. The decision was also upheld by The U.S. Court of Appeals, which explained that Genius should treat the complaint as a copyright case.

The rift between Genius and Google possibly began in 2014 when the latter buried Genius to the back pages of search results for disagreeable SEO practices.