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Google caught 'red handed' by lyrics site Genius for allegedly stealing its traffic

Genius says Google search is showing lyrics directly from Genius.com. (Source: Google Play Store)
Genius says Google search is showing lyrics directly from Genius.com. (Source: Google Play Store)
Lyrics site Genius has accused Google of displaying its lyrics in search information panels thereby leading to drop in site traffic. Genius uses a unique apostrophe formatting embedded in its lyrics and says that it has evidence that Google is directly lifting lyrics from the site. Google, however, said that lyrics in search information panels are supplied by licensing partners and that it will review existing agreements to ensure good practices were upheld.
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Popular lyrics site Genius.com has accused Google of stealing its traffic by displaying lyrics supposedly belonging to the site in Google Search information panels. Apparently, Genius had notified Google of the same in 2017 and again in April this year. In an email message to The Wall Street Journal, Chief Strategy Officer of Genius, Ben Gross said,

Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius."

The "irrefutable evidence" that Gross is alluding to refers to Genius's watermarking system in the lyrics using apostrophes that the company first started implementing in 2016. The company uses alternating forms of straight and curly single-quote apostrophes (see image below) in the exact same sequence for every song. Upon converting these apostrophes into Morse code, they spell "Red Handed". 

Google said that the lyrics showing up in the search information panels are licensed from partners such as LyricFind and are not Google-created. Since the needed lyrics show up in Google information panels, users do not take the trouble of clicking on the original publisher leading to drop in site traffic. Sources for Genius's revenues include ads, sponsored videos, and licensing agreements with Spotify and Apple Music. 

Google also said that it would review its licensing agreements with partners and terminate those "not upholding good practices." LyricFind on its part said that it creates the lyrics in-house and does not source them from Genius.

Genius's doubts about Google's lyrics source began in 2016 when a software engineer noticed that the lyrics of the song "Panda" by rapper Desiigner was exactly the same in Google as was on Genius. Panda had hard-to-understand lyrics and many other sites got the words wrong with the exception of Genius because Desiigner himself provided the lyrics transcript to the site. 

It remains to be seen how Genius and Google would sort this out. Genius itself does not hold any lyrics copyrights so any legal argument, if taken to court, might stand to be considerably weaker.

The apostrophe watermarking system used by Genius in the lyrics of Alessia Cara's "Not Today". (Source: Genius via WSJ)
The apostrophe watermarking system used by Genius in the lyrics of Alessia Cara's "Not Today". (Source: Genius via WSJ)

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Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - Managing Editor - 1448 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2012
Though a cell and molecular biologist by training, I have been drawn towards computers from a very young age ever since I got my first PC in 1998. My passion for technology grew quite exponentially with the times, and it has been an incredible experience from being a much solicited source for tech advice and troubleshooting among family and friends to joining Notebookcheck in 2017 as a professional tech journalist. Now, I am a Lead Editor at Notebookcheck covering news and reviews encompassing a wide gamut of the technology landscape for Indian and global audiences. When I am not hunting for the next big story or taking complex measurements for reviews, you can find me unwinding to a nice read, listening to some soulful music, or trying out a new game.
contact me via: @Geeky_Vaidy
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 06 > Google caught 'red handed' by lyrics site Genius for allegedly stealing its traffic
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2019-06-17 (Update: 2019-06-17)