Marketing 3 min read

Lyrics Site Genius Accuses Google of Content Stealing

Sundry Photography /

Sundry Photography /

Song lyrics site Genius has accused the search engine giant Google of content stealing. According to Genius Media Group, the owner of the website, Google has been scraping lyrics content from its site and publishing them on its own platform.

The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Genius initially notified Google about the issue back in 2017. However, the latter has made no move to rectify the matter. Another letter was sent by the lyrics site last April but to no avail.

Genius’s chief strategy officer Ben Gross told WSJ:

“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius.”

Genius allegedly used a watermarking system in the lyrics they publish, embedding apostrophes in patterns that spell “Red Handed” when converted to Morse Code dots and dashes.

According to Genius, they were able to find over a hundred sample of song lyrics that Google took from their site.

Content Stealing

In response to the content stealing accusation, Google said that the lyrics they display in the information boxes shown on top of the search results page are licensed from partner sites and not created by them. One of Google’s third-party partners and leading lyrics provider, Canada-based LyricFind, also denied taking content from Genius. In a statement released following WSJ’s report, LyricFind said:

“Some time ago, Ben Gross from Genius notified LyricFind that they believed they were seeing Genius lyrics in LyricFind’s database. As a courtesy to Genius, our content team was instructed not to consult Genius as a source. Recently, Genius raised the issue again and provided a few examples. All of those examples were also available on many other lyric sites and services, raising the possibility that our team unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location.

As a result, LyricFind offered to remove any lyrics Genius felt had originated from them, even though we did not source them from Genius’ site. Genius declined to respond to that offer. Despite that, our team is currently investigating the content in our database and removing any lyrics that seem to have originated from Genius.”

LyricFind also dismissed Genius’ claims as “miniscule” and “not systemic.” The company added:

“It should be reiterated that Genius themselves have no ownership of the lyric rights – music publishers and songwriters do. Genius sources lyrics from user submissions, and those users may not be transcribing from scratch.”

Google’s Information Boxes

Google Search‘s information box feature was rolled out last 2014. Its purpose was to help users view information directly on Google’s search results page, making it easier to find what they’re looking for without going through multiple search listings.

However, launching the said feature resulted in a decline in traffic for some websites. Web analytics company Jumpshot reported that just last March alone, 62 percent of Google mobile searches didn’t result in users clicking listings on the search results page. Jumpshot further reported that 35 percent of recent desktop searches also didn’t result in user clicks.

Despite the number of complaints filed by companies against Google for some of the changes it made to search, nothing has been done. Now, this latest issue with Genius serves as a reminder to publishers of just how powerful Google has become and how it can manipulate content to favor its services.

Read More: Google Says It’s Not Killing Ad Blockers, Just Making Them Safer

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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