YOU MAY recall that earlier this year, a website called Genius, which specialises in song lyrics, caught out Google thanks to some Rebekah Vardy type antics involving curly apostrophes.
Google called Mea Culpa, agreed to credit lyrics sourced from Genius and it seemed the matter was settled. But it wasn't.
Genius has just taken the matter to court and is suing Google for $50m in damages claiming damages against the investment Genius made in building its site, and business.
Also cited is one of Google's official lyric partners LyricFind, which, it is claimed, was passing off Genius lyrics as its own. The court papers are requesting a ‘permanent injunction' against LyricFind, in addition to the Google lucre.
In both cases, Genius is claiming a breach in the terms and conditions for using the service.
The tricky thing for the judge, in this case, is that both companies are claiming ownership of something that, technically, neither of them own. Lyrics are normally the copyright of a publisher and as such, Google may choose to argue that it can't have stolen something that it didn't own.
It's going to come down to a question of screen-scrapers and licence fees. Screen scraping precedent is that it's something ok to do, and if both Genius and Google have the rights to use the lyrics, then it could be seen as no-harm no-foul.
The question will be whether the judge looks at this as a straight-up tiff between two tech firms, or as Google trying to suppress the little guy. If it's the latter, then game set and match Genius. Otherwise, Google will probably be able to argue its way out of it.
As things stand though, this is just one more example of how the tech industry often has to invent laws around emerging tech, to fill a gulf in legislation. We'll be interested to see what happens. μ
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