The lyric site has a smart way of encoding the words "Red Handed" into their lyrics in morse code, to catch Google taking content from them.
We've all had moments whereby we proceed to confidently belt out lyrics to a song, only to be smugly informed by a friend that "those are not the right words," before proceeding to google the lyrics for the next time we decide to break out in song. Google usually comes in clutch, providing us with the lyrics directly on their page, but now, Genius Media Group - formerly known as Rap Genius - has come forward to accuse Google of stealing lyrics published on its site. The site has spent the last decade aggregating lyrics from rappers, pop stars, and other musicians, and now claims that Google is using lyrics taken from its platform to populate its search engine results.
According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Genius has known about the issue since way back in 2017, when executives penned a letter requesting the company not to use lyrics taken from their platform. They followed up their letter with another sent in April, saying that using lyrics taken from the platform violates both the company’s terms of service and antitrust law more generally.“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” Ben Gross, Genius’ chief strategy officer, told the Wall Street Journal in a statement.
The lyrics platform was skilfully able to prove that Google had taken content from its site, using a watermarking system which alternated between straight and curly single-quote marks in its apostrophes. The site used this smart watermarking system to encode the words “Red Handed” into various lyrics in Morse code, which appeared identically in Google’s Knowledge Graph and Information Graph search results. “We take data quality and creator rights very serious and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement,” Google told the Wall Street Journal in a statement. The company also said that they’ve partnered with other non-Genius organizations like LyricsFind Inc. to secure the rights to lyric content.
It’s worth noting, however, that Genius doesn't even actually own the rights to lyrics published on its platform. The site licenses lyrics from music publishers, while allowing users to contribute lyrics to be published on the platform. In 2013, the National Music Publisher’s Association took to calling the site “blatantly illegal,” filing a series of stern takedown notices against Genius. This isn’t the first time that Google has been called out for similar offenses, though, as back in 2017, the Outline reported that Google’s Knowledge Graph system significantly impacted page views for sites like CelebrityNetWorth.com.