Advertisement

Biden administration backs Google in song lyrics case at Supreme Court

FILE PHOTO: The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City

By Blake Brittain

(Reuters) -The Biden administration's U.S. solicitor general said Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court should not review a ruling won by Alphabet's Google LLC against song-lyric website Genius over Google's alleged copying of Genius' lyric transcriptions.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a court brief that the justices should let stand the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that Genius' case was preempted by federal copyright law.

Genius, formerly known as Rap Genius, sued Google in New York state court in 2019 for allegedly posting its lyric transcriptions at the top of Google search results without permission.

Genius does not own copyrights in the lyrics, which are usually held by the artists or publishers. It accused Google of violating its terms of service by stealing its work and reposting it on Google webpages.

The 2nd Circuit last year upheld a Manhattan federal court's decision that Genius' breach-of-contract claims were based on copyright concerns and could only be pursued in a copyright lawsuit.

Genius told the Supreme Court that Google's win could allow big tech companies to steal content from sites that aggregate user-created information including Reddit, eBay and Wikipedia without repercussions.

Google said it holds licenses to the lyrics and argued that Genius wants to "ignore the true copyright owners and invent new rights through a purported contract."

Prelogar on Tuesday criticized the 2nd Circuit's suggestion that copyright law "categorically" bars contract claims that are based on a "promise not to copy" creative works.

But the solicitor general recommended declining the petition because it was not clear Genius could prove it had a valid contract with Google.

Prelogar also said there was "little indication" that another appeals court would have handled the case differently.

Genius attorney Josh Rosenkranz said Wednesday that "there is an entrenched circuit split on whether and when breach of contract claims are preempted," and that "review isn't just warranted, but urgent."

A Google spokesperson said the company does not "crawl or scrape websites to source lyrics," and called Genius' claims meritless.

The Solicitor General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington)