Genius says it caught Google stealing content with Morse code

Google denied any wrongdoing to “The Wall Street Journal.” In a statement, the company said it was investigating the issue.

Illustration by Joseph Lin / Ladders

Well, that’s Genius.

Music-annotation website Genius, which provides commentary for just about all music lyrics, accused Google of stealing their lyrics from its own website and publishing them in search results in recent years, causing traffic to drop, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Genius had notified Google in 2017 about the lyrics-lifting and believe they caught the search giant red-handed due to a hidden code pattern used on lyrics posted to Genius’ site.

Genius says it made changes to its lyrics back in 2016 by alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes with straight and curly styles that were deliberate. That’s because the two types of apostrophes left a secret message in Morse code which spelled “Red Handed.” That message appeared identical on Google’s populated Knowledge Graph, which displays lyrics within the search query.

“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” Genius’ chief strategy officer Ben Gross said in a statement.

Google denied any wrongdoing to The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, the company said it was investigating the issue.

The Brooklyn-based media giant allows users to create annotations and their own interpretations of song lyrics. Genius initially started as a platform for rap before expanding into other types of music.


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Kyle Schnitzer|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at kschnitzer@theladders.com.