Google wins dismissal of lyric-stealing lawsuit

Judge finds that song lyric database has no basis to sue Google because it doesn't hold the copyright for the songs.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

Lyric-scraping lawsuit against Google dismissed.

Getty Images

Google defeated a lawsuit on Monday that alleged it was stealing lyrics from Genius Media, a song lyric database operator. The lawsuit alleged that displaying the lyrics in search results were anticompetitive.

Reports of the alleged lyrics thefts emerged last year, with Genius asserting it could prove lyrics listed in Google search results are its own by looking at the apostrophes. Once the apostrophes are converted into Morse Code, they spell out "red handed," it said in a lawsuit filed last December.

US District Judge Margo Brodie of the Eastern District of New York rejected Genius' lawsuit on Monday, finding that while the lyrics are copyright protected, Genius isn't the copyright holder. Those rights remain with the artists who wrote them.

"Plaintiff's breach of contract claims are nothing more than claims seeking to enforce the copyright owners' exclusive rights to protection from unauthorized reproduction of the lyrics and are therefore preempted," Brodie wrote in dismissing the complaint by Genuis, which also provides annotated lyrics and song facts for songs across platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

The judge goes on to say that Genius' allegation is preempted by the Copyright Act, pointing out that it claims Google "created an unauthorized reproduction of [Genius'] derivative work, which is itself conduct that violates an exclusive right of the copyright owner under federal copyright law."

Google declined to comment on the dismissal, but in a blog post last year, it said it strives to ensure songwriters are paid for their lyrics by working with music publishers who manage those rights. However, the tech giant added that publishers often don't have lyrics in digital text copies, so it works with third parties to get access to these.

Genius Media didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.