We've all done it. It's not always easy to parse out the lyrics to many songs that we need to quote to prove they express what's inside us via mumbled trap or grindcore pig-squeals. So we search on Google, which turns up life-saving lyrics websites. But often, we don't even make it that far, because Google shows the lyrics right in the search itself. But is it shafting the original lyric hosts in the first place?
Lyric site Genius has long alleged that Google has been lifting lyrics from them wholesale and posting them directly on Google Search. Obviously, this prevents users from actually landing on Genius and would rob them of vital revenue. Genius says it has finally proven Google's lyric thievery with the help of hidden Morse code messages within the lyrics.
Genius deliberately used alternate straight and curved apostrophes as a way to watermark the lyrics in Morse code to spell out "red handed", which then turned up in Google's lyrics with the exact apostrophe pattern over 100 times. Genius has alleged that Google is violating antitrust law and its terms of service, and that it alerted Google to this issue as early as 2017.
Google, however, denies any wrongdoing in the following statement to the press.
"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."
What's interesting here is that Google is placing responsibility on its sourcing partners for honoring the terms of service - the Mountain View giant doesn't great the panels in-house. One source for song lyrics, LyricFind, assured the Wall Street Journal that its staff "do not source" lyrics from Genius, but neither Google nor any sourcing partner has come up with an explanation for Genius' Morse code trap appearing in the panel.
Genius doesn't actually own the lyrics that it hosts, so it may not have much to gain to challenge Mountain View directly on a legal basis, but Google is facing a lot of heat due to rubbing up against antitrust restrictions, both with successful cases from the European Union and potentially an upcoming investigation by the US Justice Department. As authorities sniff around for anti-competitive behavior, allegations like those from Genius will only compound a difficult situation for the search giant.