Leading song lyrics site Genius.com has accused Google of stealing its content and publishing it in search results.
A report was published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend which contains evidence to back up the accusations.
Complaints from Genius against Google date back several years, as Google was first notified in 2017 that transcriptions copied from Genius appeared in search results.
Genius sent a letter to Google again in April before reaching out to the Wall Street Journal.
Details provided to the Wall Street Journal revealed how Google was literally caught “red-handed”:
“Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.
When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.””
Genius discovered that lyrics with its unique series of apostrophes also appeared in Google’s search results, which the Wall Street Journal verified:
“The Journal randomly chose three of the more than 100 examples Genius says it found of songs on Google containing these watermarks, and verified the pattern of apostrophes was the same.”
Google denies that it knowingly copied lyrics from Genius and says it’s investigating the issue.
Regardless of whether the accusations from Genius hold water, it would be difficult to fight a legal battle due to the fact that Genius doesn’t own the copyright to the lyrics it publishes.
At the very least, Genius is bringing to light an issue that impacts many publishers on the web.
It’s an increasingly common complaint that Google’s rich snippets and information boxes take traffic away from the original publishers.
A high profile publication like the Wall Street Journal reporting on this issue will certainly help bring more attention to it.
I imagine there will be more to follow on this story once Google’s investigations are complete.