The US Justice Department is urging the US Supreme Court to relinquish a case alleging Google stole millions of song lyrics from music database Genius, calling it a “poor vehicle” for the high court to demonstrate.
Genius — a platform that lets users add and annotate lyrics — wants the judge to revive its lawsuit, which claims Google used the site for its search results after the case was dismissed by a lower court last year. Carefully written material was used inappropriately.
But in a brief filed on Tuesday (May 23), the US solicitor general asked the Supreme Court to clarify. It said the case was a “poor vehicle” for reviewing the issues at issue, and that the lower court did nothing particularly new when it dismissed the case against Google.
“In the view of the United States, the petition for certification should be denied,” the government wrote.
Genius sued the tech giant in 2019, claiming that Google had stolen the site’s carefully curated content for its own “information box” in search results, essentially spending “time, labor, system and resources” that go into making such one. Service. In a brilliant twist, Genius said he used a secret code hidden within words, spelled redhanded, to prove Google’s wrongdoing.
Although it sounds like a copyright case, Genius didn’t actually accuse Google of stealing any intellectual property. This is because it has no owner; Songwriters and publishers own the rights to songs, and both Google and Genius pay for a single license to display them. Instead, Genius argued that it had spent time and money writing and compiling “official” versions of the songs, and that Google had violated the site’s terms of service by “exploiting” them without permission.
But in March that gap proved fatal for the genius. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed the case, ruling that only the actual copyright owner—the songwriter or publisher—could file such a case, not a site that merely transcribed the lyrics. In technical terms, the court held that the case was “preempted” by federal copyright law, meaning that Genius’s allegations were so similar to a copyright claim that they could only have been filed as such.
In taking the case to the Supreme Court, Genius argued that the ruling would be a disaster for websites that spend time and money collecting user-generated content online. Such companies should be allowed to protect that effort against obvious copycats, the company said, even if they do not own the copyright. “Big-tech companies like Google don’t need any help from a broad perspective of copyright exemptions,” the company wrote.
Such petitions are always far-fetched as the Supreme Court makes up less than 2% of the 7,000 cases it receives every year. But in December, judges told the DOJ whether it should take on the Genius case.
In Tuesday’s filing, the DOJ asserted that it should not argue, among other things, that the lower court’s ruling for Google was substantially correct. Although the agency disputed some of the lower court’s analysis, it said that Genius was essentially using contract law to claim rights similar to those of the copyright owner—the exact scenario in which such claims are allowed by federal law. predefined”.
“In fact, petitioner reserves the right to prevent commercial copying of transcriptions of its songs by all persons who access them, without regard to any express expression of consent by website visitors,” the agency wrote.
The Supreme Court will now decide whether to hear the case or not; A decision on that question should come in the next several months. A spokesperson for Genius did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the DOJ’s filing.
Read the DOJ’s full brief here.