Is Google Stealing Lyrics?


If you’re like most of us, you have probably heard a catchy snippet of a song at some point or another. Maybe it was when you turned the radio on in your car and encountered it mid-song, maybe you were out shopping somewhere and heard it over the speakers at the establishment, maybe you were introduced to it through an ad for a streaming service such as YouTube or Spotify.

Whatever the case, it happens to all of us—the luckiest of us can remember fragments of a verse or (often more likely) the chorus. Whatever fragments we happen to remember we type into Google to figure out what the song is and how we can add it to our playlist.

Usually, the search will bring up the song’s name along with the band’s name and the lyrics for the full song. However, in a recent complaint from Genius representatives, Google has been accused of stealing the lyrics found in their searches from Genius.

What is Genius

If you’re unfamiliar with Genius, it’s a platform that launched in 2009 with the focus on annotating rap lyrics—when it first launched, the company was called Rap Genius—however, it has since expanded to include the majority of musical genres (hence the rebrand to just Genius).

Since their launch, they’ve branched out; offering different forms of content for a myriad of musical genres. Currently, the platform exists as a sort of musical philosophy exchange. The people from the genius community—which includes many of the creators themselves—come together to discuss the different themes, motifs and symbols in the music and music videos they make/listen to.

What’s the Problem?

According to Genius’ Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), Ben Gross, Genius has provided proof that Google has been displaying lyrics copied directly from Genius.

According to Genius, the site uses a series of curved and straight apostrophes that alternate in a pattern in their work—something that is nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye—similar to a photographer leaving a watermark on his/her work.

According to Gross, Genius has presented evidence to Google that they have been displaying lyrics stolen from Genius on numerous occasions.  Genius representatives consider it a serious issue—they expect Google to address it, and they don’t plan to let them ignore it until it goes away.

Google’s Response

However, according to Google representatives, it’s not Google that is responsible for stealing the lyrics from Genius.

Google claims they license the material from a third-party organization known as LyricFind. In a statement, Google representatives said: “We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement.”

Google representatives go on to say that the content they share on their search engine is licensed from various sources and they are currently investigating the matter. They have also announced their intention to sever ties with any licensing partners they deem to be “not upholding good practices.”

At this time, LyricFind has also denied stealing the lyrics from Genius.