Google Accused Of Genius Lyrics Copyright Infringement, Allegedly Busted In A Very Clever Way

"Don't be evil" -- that used to be part of Google's corporate code of conduct until last year. With that unofficial motto now gone, it may not be too surprising that Google has been fingered for a rather underhanded move regarding song lyrics that pop up in Google search (among other things).

Genius, a popular song lyrics site, is accusing Google of blatantly and directly copying content from its site to populate its results panel when someone search for song lyrics. There are a number of lyrics sites on the web, so how could Genius possibly know that Google was stealing content from its website in particular? Well, here's the genius part of it the whole sting operation: Genius digitally watermarked its lyrics with alternating apostrophes and quotation marks.

Googleplex HQ

Taking it a step further, the patterns created by stray characters converted to Morse code that spelled out "Red Handed". So, it wasn't hard for Genius to catch on to Google's alleged lyrics theft. According to Genius, Google has been copying lyrics from its site for its own use since 2016. It was back then when Genius discovered Google had managed to post an exact match of words for the a rap song from Desiigner -- Genius had obtained the lyrics straight from the artist, so it was rather peculiar that Google's lyrics would match exactly for a song that is rather hard to decipher by merely listening to it.

"[We have provided] Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius in their Lyrics OneBox. This is a serious issue, and Google needs to address it,” the company told The Verge.

For its part, Google is saying that it licensed the lyrics from another company, LyricFind Inc., in an attempt to at least partially absolve itself from any wrongdoing. 

“We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement,” said Google in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the lyrical dustup.

(Image source: The Pancake of Heaven!)