US Supreme Court asks for Biden administration’s views in Google copyright case

By Blake Brittain Reuters

The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London
The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the Biden administration to weigh in on song-lyric website Genius’ attempt to revive a lawsuit over Google’s alleged theft of its work.

The justices are considering whether to hear ML Genius Holdings LLC’s bid to overturn a U.S. appeals court’s ruling that its case against Google LLC was preempted by federal copyright law.

The Supreme Court often asks for the solicitor general’s input on cases in which the U.S. government may have an interest.

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Representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Genius, formerly known as Rap Genius, keeps a database of song lyrics and annotations maintained by volunteers. It sued Google and its partner LyricFind in New York state court in 2019 for allegedly posting its lyric transcriptions at the top of Google search results without permission.

Genius argued Google violated its terms of service by stealing its work and reposting it on Google webpages, decreasing traffic to Genius’ site. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March affirmed a decision to dismiss the case, finding Genius’ breach-of-contract claims were based on copyright concerns and should have been brought under copyright law.

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Genius does not own the copyrights to the lyrics themselves, which are usually held by the artists or publishers.

Genius asked the high court in August to review the decision. It said the 2nd Circuit went against the majority of other circuits and could allow big tech companies to steal content from sites that aggregate user-created information including Reddit, eBay, Wikipedia and others with no repercussions.

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“It serves no public purpose — and certainly no purpose that furthers the Copyright Act’s aims — to bar these companies from enforcing their contracts so that behemoths like Google can vacuum up content and increase their internet dominance,” Genius said.

Google responded in November that it holds licenses to the lyrics from the copyright holders, and that Genius wants to “ignore the true copyright owners and invent new rights through a purported contract.”

The case is ML Genius Holdings LLC v. Google LLC, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 22-121.

For Genius: Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

For Google: Lisa Blatt of Williams & Connolly

Read more:

Google fends off Genius appeal in lawsuit over song lyrics

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