SCOTUS Seeks Biden Admin Input On Lawsuit Against Google Over Song Lyrics

The Supreme Court is asking the Biden administration to weigh in on Genius Media Group's battle with Google over the display of song lyrics.

The court's request for the administration's input, issued Monday, came soon after a conference at which the justices considered whether to review the matter.

The dispute over song lyrics dates to December 2019, when Genius sued Google, along with the company LyricFind, for allegedly copying lyrics from Genius and displaying them in the search results. (LyricFind allegedly scraped the lyrics and licensed them to Google.)

Genius licensed the right to display the lyrics -- which were posted by users -- but did not own the lyrics' copyright, and did not claim that Google infringed federal copyright law.

Instead, Genius alleged that Google and LyricFind violated various New York state laws, including that they breached their contract with Genius by failing to abide by the site's terms of service, which prohibit website visitors from distributing content for commercial purposes.

Google and LyricFind sought dismissal at an early stage, arguing that Genius's claims were actually rooted in federal copyright law -- which, according to Google and LyricFind overrides claims relating to contractual violations.

U.S. District Court Judge Margo Brodie in the Eastern District of New York agreed with Google and LyricFind, and dismissed Genius's complaint in 2020.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit upheld that ruling in March.

Genius recently asked the Supreme Court to review the 2nd Circuit decision, arguing that copyright law shouldn't preclude claims stemming from alleged terms-of-service violations.

The antitrust hawk Open Markets Institute sided with Genius, writing in a friend-of-the-court brief that Google “stole Genius's content.”

“Google did not create anything new, has been unfairly cannibalizing Genius’s business, and has expressly violated its terms with Genius,” the Open Markets Institute wrote.

But Google argues the 2nd Circuit judges correctly ruled that Genius's complaint boiled down to a dispute rooted in copyright.

“Genius’s contract claims are copyright claims in disguise,” Google wrote in papers filed last month with the Supreme Court. “Indeed, Genius’s contract claims against Google and LyricFind would mirror a copyright infringement suit, if only Genius had copyright ownership over the lyrics.”

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