December 05, 2019

Google sued by music website Genius over alleged lyric copyright infringement

[ by Kavita Krishnan ]


Search engine giant Google is again facing lawsuit and this time for copyright infringement. Lyrics website Genius has alleged that the company knowingly copied its song lyrics and used them in search results. Genius also alleged Google’s practices to be anticompetitive, and is seeking $50 million in restitution from Google and its partner LyricFind.

The complaint, filed in Brooklyn, New York, on December 3rd, says that Google’s behavior not only violates its terms of service (TOS) agreement, but it profits off of the “ten years and tens of millions of dollars” Genius has spent to build its business and database, and so it amounts to unfair competition.

Google displays song lyrics that are provided by partners in response to certain search queries. Genius alleged earlier this year that, in some instances, those lyrics were copied from its website, which tracked through a clever watermarking scheme.

In addition to monetary damages, Genius says it is entitled to a permanent injunction against LyricFind, prohibiting the continued misappropriation of content from Genius’s website, including the licensing of such content to third parties, such as Google.

Google disputed the lawsuit and clarified its position by stating that the lyrics directly come from the content providers. Google affirmed that the information in search results are licensed from various sources, and said that the company is investigating this issue with its data partners and is said to end its agreements on finding that its partners are not upholding good practices.

Genius is a platform where music fans can use to look up and annotate lyrics. Genius alleges that Google has been copying its lyrics for years. Both Genius and Google hold licenses from music publishers to print song lyrics which makes the lawsuit trickier, focusing more on how Google and its partners got the lyrics to begin with. According to sources, Genius doesn’t own the lyrics either. The lyrics are originally owned by songwriters and producers. That said, the company can claim a breach of TOS by both Google and LyricFind since both the companies copied the lyrics from the website without explicit permission from Genius.

The complaint comes as the US Department of Justice has reportedly been planning to take up an antitrust investigation against Google for its business practices.

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