Lyrics website Genius’ lawsuit against Google struck down by Supreme Court

The Genius lawsuit against Google, which accused the company of displaying unlicensed lyrics sourced from Genius in its search results, has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Genius, a song lyrics and musical knowledge database, after having its appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeals in 2022, argued that this decision could set a precedent for companies like Google to steal content from websites that aggregate user-generated content. The Solicitor General recommended that the Supreme Court reject the case.


Genius initially claimed in 2019 that Google had “lifted” lyrics from its website and displayed them in search results. They provided evidence by watermarking their lyrics with a unique pattern of straight and curled apostrophes. The specific sequence of these apostrophes spelled out “red handed” in Morse code when converted to dots and dashes. Google, on the other hand, denied these allegations and stated that they obtained lyrics through a licensing partnership with a Canadian company called LyricFind.


Six months later, Genius filed a lawsuit against both Google and LyricFind, seeking a minimum of $50 million in damages. LyricFind also denied any wrongdoing. However, the lawsuit was dismissed in August 2020 because the judge ruled that Genius did not have the legal standing to file the lawsuit since they did not own the rights to the original lyrics. The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld this decision in March 2022, treating the complaint as a copyright case. This was problematic for Genius since they did not hold the copyright to the lyrics, as it remains with the artists and publishers.

In the past, back in 2014 when it was still called RapGenius, Genius faced consequences from Google for utilising unfavourable search engine optimisation practices that resulted in their website being pushed to the back pages of search results, even for terms like “rap genius.” The punishment was lifted after Genius removed the problematic content from their site.