Google has once again won a legal battle with the song lyrics website Genius, which claimed that Google was using its transcribed lyrics without permission in search results. The case has been ongoing for many years.
Genius filed a lawsuit against Google in 2019, claiming that the search engine was scraping lyrics from its website, which was a violation of Genius’ copyright. Genius has an extensive database of song lyrics and bills itself as “the world’s largest music encyclopedia.” It is a free service. It attempted to demonstrate that Google was scraping information from its website by placing watermarks on its lyrics. According to Genius, it appeared in Google searches but without any link back or attribution to the company that created them.
When it came to song lyrics, Google stated in a blog post that it did not “crawl or scrape websites to source” them. Licensing of lyric transcriptions to Google is provided by the Canadian lyrics licensing site LyricFind, which is also a defendant in the Genius lawsuit.
Although Genius’ claims of scraping appeared credible, Judge Margo Brodie ruled in August 2020 that the claims did not constitute a copyright violation because Genius is not the actual copyright holder of the lyrics, which she stated belonged to the musicians who wrote them. The lyrics are licensed by Genius, and they can be enhanced through derivative works such as annotations. Still, according to Brodie, this does not confer ownership on Genius over the actual lyrics themselves.
Earlier this week, a judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the earlier decision, noting that the lyrics are protected by copyrights that Genius does not own.