Most people sing along to their favorite artists all the time, only to realize they were getting the lyrics completely wrong. That’s where sites like Genius.com come in.
For years, Genius has provided lyrics to songs along with annotations in order to help people better understand the meaning behind the music they listen to. Now, Genius says its traffic has been dropping over the past several years, and that Google is partly to blame.
Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform as well. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Genius claims that Google is copying and displaying its lyrics.
Genius first became suspicious in 2016 when the company got exclusive access to lyrics for Desiigner’s “Panda.” Anyone who’s heard the song knows the lyrics aren’t super easy to pick out. Somehow, Google was one of the few sites without any errors.
In 2017, Genius notified Google that it knew what was going on. The WSJ reported that Genius’ most recent warning was in April, where the company told Google that the reuse of its transcriptions breaks its terms of service and violates antitrust laws.
You may be wondering how Genius proved that Google copied their lyrics exactly. After all, lyrics are lyrics. If they’re correct, they’re going to look the same across sites.
In order to prove its allegations, Genius got clever. The company began putting unique patterns in its lyrics by alternating the font of apostrophes between curly and straight. Those sequences could be converted to Morse code to spell out “red handed,” the WSJ reported.
Even though Genius says it has found over 100 examples of Google lifting its lyrics, Google still denies the claims.
“We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement,” A Google spokesperson told the WSJ.
Genius can’t really sue Google for stealing lyrics because the musicians own those. However, this still doesn’t look good for Google and could foreshadow a bigger fight between the two companies in the years to come.