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The Department of Justice Supports Google in Legal Battle with Genius Over Lyrics
The Department of Justice (DoJ) has dealt a significant blow to lyrics website Genius in its ongoing fight against Google. Genius had sued Google in 2019, accusing the search giant of displaying lyrics from their platform without permission. After multiple court rulings, the case reached the Supreme Court, which sought the opinion of Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. In a recent brief, Prelogar recommended that the court reject Genius’ request for a review, stating that the allegations are preempted by copyright law.
- Genius sued Google in 2019, claiming the search giant violated its terms of service by displaying lyrics without permission.
- The case was dismissed by a US District Judge in 2020 and upheld by the US Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2022.
- Genius appealed to the Supreme Court, leading to the involvement of the DoJ and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.
- Prelogar filed a brief concurring with the lower courts, arguing that the allegations are preempted by copyright law.
The DoJ’s Perspective:
- Solicitor General Prelogar recommended that the Supreme Court reject Genius’ request for a review.
- The crux of the issue lies in Genius’ approach, as visitors were not directly asked to agree to the terms of service.
- Prelogar stated that no court would find that Google or others agreed not to scrape lyrics from Genius’ platform.
- Genius would have a stronger case if it required every visitor to agree to their terms of service.
- Prelogar noted that some visitors might not even be aware of the existence of Genius’ terms of service document.
- The DoJ’s position is that the allegations against Google are not supported by copyright law.
Google understandably feels vindicated here, with the company issuing a statement to Ars Technica saying:
“The Solicitor General and multiple courts continue to find that Genius’ claims have no merit. We include lyrics in search results to help you quickly find what you are looking for. We license the lyrics text from third parties, and we do not crawl or scrape websites to source lyrics.”The Solicitor General and multiple courts continue to find that Genius’ claims have no merit. We include lyrics in search results to help you quickly find what you are looking for. We license the lyrics text from third parties, and we do not crawl or scrape websites to source lyrics.”
Genius’ Concerns and Response:
- Genius warned that a favorable ruling for Google could set a precedent allowing major corporations to steal content from platforms hosting publicly sourced content.
- The company’s legal options are running out, and the Supreme Court’s decision based on the Solicitor General’s advice remains uncertain.
- Previously, Genius claimed that its advertising revenues suffered due to Google’s direct display of lyrics in search results.
- Genius sought a $50 million payout from Google and its third-party partner, LyricFind.
The Solicitor General’s brief aligns with the lower courts’ rulings, indicating a setback for Genius in its legal battle against Google. The DoJ’s position argues that Genius’ allegations are preempted by copyright law and that their approach to terms of service weakens their case. With the Supreme Court’s decision pending, Genius faces an uphill battle in obtaining a favorable outcome.