Lyrics website Genius has accused Google of stealing lyrics from its site and reposting them in search results without permission, with Genius claiming they caught the search engine “red handed” thanks to Morse code embedded in their lyrics.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Genius’ web traffic has dropped in recent years as Google has posted lyrics on its search results page in “information boxes” instead of routing users to lyric sites like Genius; in March, 62 percent of mobile searches on Google did not result in a click-through to another site.
While Google posting song lyrics themselves is not a crime, Genius claims that Google has been lifting the song lyrics directly from Genius without permission and reposting them on the search result page. The evidence: Two forms of apostrophes embedded in Genius-housed lyrics.
Starting in 2016, Genius positioned both “straight” and “curly” apostrophes in their lyrics which, when converted into dots and dashes like Morse code, spelled out the words “Red Handed.” Genius added that, using these apostrophes, they found over 100 instances of Google using Genius’ own lyrics in the Google search results.
“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” Genius’s chief strategy officer Ben Gross told the Wall Street Journal. “We noticed that Google’s lyrics matched our lyrics down to the character.”
The Wall Street Journal corroborated Genius’ accusations by matching the results of a randomly chosen three songs from the list of 100 instances – including Alessia Cara’s “Not Today” – as well as Genius’ lyrics for Desiigner’s near-indecipherable “Panda,” which the rapper himself submitted to the site.
However, Google denied the accusations through their partnership with LyricFind, which provides the search engine with lyrics through a deal with music publishers. “We do not source lyrics from Genius,” LyricFind Chief Executive Darryl Ballantyne said.