- Genius.com is taking Google to task for copying its lyrics and displaying them in search results, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- A few years back, Genius got suspicious and devised a plan to put unique patterns in its lyrics by alternating types of apostrophes.
- The company said this system helped them find more than 100 instances in which Google directly copied lyrics from Genius.
- Google denied doing anything wrong and said it licenses its lyrics from outside companies.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Genius.com is accusing Google of copying its lyrics and displaying them in search results, contributing in part to a broader slide in the site's traffic, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Music fans have for years relied on Genius to suss out what musical artists are saying as well as the meaning behind the words. But Google has jumped into the game as well, displaying lyrics in search results and cutting out the need to visit a particular lyrics company's website.
A few years back, Genius got suspicious that Google was simply lifting its content wholesale — an accusation the search giant denies — and the website devised a ploy to catch them.
It started in 2016, when Genius got exclusive access to the lyrics for hit song "Panda" by Desiigner. That meant their rendition was spot on while lyrics at most other places were strewn with errors and miscues.
That is, except for Google.
"We noticed that Google's lyrics matched our lyrics down to the character," Dan Gross, Genius' chief strategy officer, told the Journal in an email.
So Genius started creating unique patterns in its lyrics by alternating the font of apostrophes between curly and straight. When you converted the sequence of apostrophes to Morse code, it spelled out "red handed," according to the Journal.
Using this system, Genius says it found more than 100 instances of Google lifting its lyrics. The company said it brought the practice to Google's attention in 2017 and more recently in April sent the tech giant a letter arguing it was not only violating Genius' terms but also antitrust law.
Google denied the charges, telling the Journal in a statement that the lyrics it posts in boxes in search results are licensed from other companies. LyricFind, one of the companies Google licensed lyrics from, denied sourcing them from Genius.
"We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement," Google told the Journal.
A Google spokesperson provided the following statement to Business Insider: "The lyrics displayed in the information boxes and in Knowledge Panels on Google Search are licensed from a variety of sources and are not scraped from sites on the web. We take data quality and creator rights very seriously, and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement. We're investigating this issue with our data partners and if we find that partners are not upholding good practices we will end our agreements."
Genius, of course, does not own the copyright to the lyrics it publishes. The musicians do. That means it may have tough luck taking its complaints and evidence to court to hold Google or its partners accountable.
This story has been updated with an additional statement from Google.
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