Biden Administration’s Backs Google in Copyright Dispute with Genius

The Biden administration’s U.S. Solicitor General, Elizabeth Prelogar, has stated that the U.S. Supreme Court should not review a ruling favoring Alphabet Inc.’s Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in a copyright dispute against Genius, an American digital media company. The case revolves around allegations that Google copied Genius’ lyric transcriptions without permission.

In a legal document submitted on Tuesday, Prelogar suggested that the judges should support the ruling made by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This court concluded that Genius’ case was overruled by federal copyright law.

Genius, previously named Rap Genius, took legal action against Google in a New York state court in 2019. Genius claimed that Google had displayed its lyric transcriptions at the top of search results without permission. Although Genius does not own the copyrights to the lyrics, it accused Google of violating its terms of service and appropriating its work on Google webpages.

The 2nd Circuit agreed with the Manhattan federal court’s ruling last year, which said that Genius’ breach-of-contract claims were fundamentally based on copyright concerns and could only be pursued through a copyright lawsuit.

Genius warned the Supreme Court that if Google wins, it might allow other big tech companies like Reddit, eBay, and Wikipedia to take content from websites that collect user-generated information without any consequences.

Google claimed to have licenses for the song lyrics and argued that Genius is trying to create new rights and ignore the real copyright owners through a supposed contract.

On Tuesday, Prelogar expressed her disagreement with the 2nd Circuit’s idea that copyright law completely bars contract claims that involve a “promise not to copy” creative works.

However, the solicitor general advised against accepting the petition because it wasn’t clear if Genius could provide sufficient evidence of having a valid contract with Google.

Prelogar also mentioned that there were very few signs suggesting that another appeals court would have dealt with the case in a different way.

Genius lawyer Josh Rosenkranz stated on Wednesday that there is a strong disagreement among courts regarding “whether and when a breach of contract claims are preempted,”. He emphasized that reviewing the case is not just necessary but also urgent.

In response, a spokesperson from Google stated that they do not collect lyrics by scanning websites and dismissed Genius’ claims as baseless or without merit.

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