Last summer, Genius Media accused Google of allegedly plagiarizing the website’s song lyrics for their own benefit. Genius chief strategy officer Ben Gross told The Wall Street Journal that prior to the accusation, the company had “shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius.” How did they find out? According to the company, their lyric sheets are watermarked, featuring a combination of quotation marks that can be converted to Morse code. In response to the accusation, Google explained their process of obtaining song lyrics: “We pay music publishers for the right to display lyrics, since they manage the rights to these lyrics on behalf of the songwriters.”
The lawsuit Genius filed in December sought at least $50 million in damages from Google and LyricFind for “misappropriating content from Genius’s website,” which they used “for [Google’s] own financial benefit and Genius’s financial detriment.” More than a year after the initial accusation, a New York judge opted to dismiss Genius’ lawsuit, according to Variety.
The decision was based on the grounds that Genius does not own the copyright or rights to the original lyrics, with the judge saying the company is not in the position to sue Google for plagiarizing their lyrics. “The case law is clear that only the original copyright owner has exclusive rights to authorize derivative works,” the judge reportedly wrote in their decision. The judge also said Genius failed to “allege breach of contract claims that are qualitatively different from federal copyright claims.” As a result, the judge dismissed the lawsuit for “failure to state a claim” and denied the company’s motion to escalate the case to a state court.