Google Prevails in Song Lyrics Scraping Case

Posted on August 11, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 8 Comments

Google has won a court case in which it had been caught “red-handed” stealing song lyrics from a song lyrics website.

“Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims are nothing more than claims seeking to enforce the copyright owners’ exclusive rights to protection from unauthorized reproduction of the lyrics and are therefore preempted,” U.S. District Court Judge Margo Brodie wrote in the ruling. “Plaintiff’s claim is preempted by the Copyright Act because, at its core, it is a claim that Defendants created an unauthorized reproduction of Plaintiff’s derivative work, which is itself conduct that violates an exclusive right of the copyright owner under federal copyright law.”

Yep, it’s a little dense. So let’s backtrack.

As you may recall, a site called Genius sued Google last year when it planted digital watermarks in its published song lyrics and then demonstrated that Google had stolen them when the lyrics popped up in Google’s online search results. Google claimed it didn’t “crawl or scrape websites to source [song] lyrics,” but rather that “the lyrics that you see in Search come directly from lyrics content providers,” the inference being that it was these lyrics providers, and not Google, that had stolen from Genius.

If I understand the ruling correctly, Judge Brodie is saying that because Genius does not own the lyrics in question, any reproduction of those lyrics—unauthorized or otherwise—is not enforceable. That is, Genius is not the copyright holder here. In short, Brodie has dismissed the Genius complaint because the firm has no claim to make.

I think.

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