Genius Accuses Google of Stealing Their Lyrics - Used Morse Code as Evidence

Ryuzaki

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To quickly get through the boring part of the story, the Wall Street Journal got the tip off from Genius that Google was stealing their lyrics and showing them in the SERPs without attribution. Google says they license them from a 3rd party and the 3rd party must have scraped and stolen the lyrics.

Believe what you will, but that's not the interesting part. What's crazy is what Genius cooked up in order to catch the thieves.




What you're looking at above is Genius making a point to use "curly" single quotations in some places, and "straight" single quotations in others. Why, you might ask, would they do that at seemingly random.

It's not random! They used the straight quotation marks to hide a secret message within this set of lyrics. I guess it had to do with the spacing or something, I'm not sure, but apparently the straight marks spell out the phrase "red handed" in Morse code.

So then Genius gathers up the evidence and shoots it off to the WSJ in order to drum up some publicity.

Google had this to say:

Google Communications
@Google_Comms​
Lyrics in info boxes on Google Search are licensed, we don't generate them from other sites on the web. We're investigating this issue and if our data licensing partners are not upholding good practices, we will end our agreements.​
Regardless of who did it, the proof is in the SERPs even to this moment:



Fun story, it'll be interesting to see how it develops and resolves.
 
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Interesting.
Trying to shift the blame to a third party provider is neither legal defense or a good explanation. Particularly not when you're a huge corporation like Google. Then it's your responsibility to make sure you're getting legal content. Quite surprised this slipped through, if it isn't a simple lie.
 
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@bernard, I'd say that shifting blame is a great defense in criminal court, especially if discovery can prove it was the 3rd party. At that point you may be liable financially to some degree but not criminally. In civil court though it's not a good defense, for sure, especially in this day and age where intent doesn't seem to matter and you're guilty until proven innocent.

But it'd be like getting arrested and charged for a crime because your buddy robbed a bank and then called you to meet up for a beer and a hamburger. Just because you benefited from him paying for your burger doesn't mean you committed a crime or were even an accomplice.

This is a case where I'm inclined to believe Google. I'm also inclined to believe they cross-referenced the 3rd party lyrics against their index and realized it was being stolen and said "fuck it, YOLO till we get caught and claim we didn't know."
 

Ryuzaki

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Update to the Saga:

Google reveals that they 3rd party company is LyricFind.

The name itself ought to have tipped them off that they aren't creating lyrics but "finding" them.

LyricFind publishes a blog post titled "LyricFind Offers Corrections to Inaccuracies in Wall Street Journal Reporting", which can be summarized as such:

"Google licenses lyrics from us and the actual music publishing companies. Blaming Google of any wrongdoing is extremely misleading. We at LyricFind have a global content team to build our database. Our writers start with a copy of the lyrics from another site (lol) and then we stream the song and correct any problems. Genius previously told us we were copying them and we told our writers not to use them as a source. Here we are again, same problem. So our team must have sourced other websites that copied Genius, thus the quotation marks and Morse code being in there."

LyricFind offered for Genius to do the work of determining what they copied from Genius, and Genius was like "hell no, why should we do the work." LyricFind did it themselves and found 100 instances of copies in their 1.5 million songs. "Therefore Genius's claim is minuscule and doesn't matter due to the small scale. And Genius doesn't own the lyrics anyways! They don't even write them, and even if they did they don't own it!"

Sounds like an admission of guilt to me.

But then again, let's not pretend Genius (funded by Andreessen Horowitz [take a look at who all they fund]) is innocent nor is Google. Genius took part in a blatant backlink scheme and was penalized for it, and was un-penalized in less than 24 hours, but likely still keeps the benefit of the backlinks if not all the backlinks they gained from the exposure. And you only get unpenalized that quickly for something that bad if you have a backchannel into Google. So Genius isn't that innocent nor is Google in helping them in ways they wouldn't help us.

Fun times, bad publicity and tons of backlinks for all!

Google is going to save face by now attributing the companies that they got the specific lyric from, which they should have been doing anyways and should be doing in all rich snippets.
 
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Man.
I want to like a16z

Shit like this though. Shit like this.
 
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Good move by Genius. 100 copies is much less than 1%, even if Genius were to pursue this legally- any court would be hard-pressed to find this as blatant, fragrant or intentional infringement of copyright- assuming copyright of written lyrics by someone else is even a thing. That's why LyricFind said "it doesn't matter", it would not incriminate them in consideration of the scale.