Genius raps Google with $50 million lawsuit over scraped content

Brenda Watkins
December 5, 2019

Look, we don't want our search engine rankings to dip, so we're not going to neg too hard on Google here - plus, the notion of filing a lawsuit over lyrics other people wrote is a bit hard to wrap your head around.

Along with accusing Google of stealing its lyrics, Genius also alleges that the search engine makes it hard for the public to access organic search results.

The lawsuit was filed in ny on Tuesday (December 3) and seeks "no less than $50 million" in "combined minimum damages" from both Google and Canada-based LyricFind. But then Genius devised a second watermark in August 2019 to spell out the word "genius" in Morse code - and, according to the company, Google search results continued to include lyrics with the Genius-coded text.

Genius' website is a favourite among lyrics searchers, providing annotations from users and sometimes artists/writers themselves explaining the meanings or delving into the stories behind particular lines. The claim suggests that Google misappropriated song lyrics Genius had posted to its website, either directly or through Google's licensing partner LyricFind.

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Notably, Google was found using lyrics with the same hidden code in more than 100 instances, Genius alleged. The lyrics information box on Google for the "Panda" song by Desiigner, was the first one that led to Genius suspecting that lyrics from its website had been misappropriated. This is due to the fact that Genius doesn't own the lyrics either.

As a result, it conceded that its team may have "unknowingly" taken lyrics from a source that originally copied them from Genius, but that it "offered to remove any lyrics Genius felt had originated from them, even though we did not source them from Genius' site". Genius is asking for $50 million in its lawsuit.

The filed complaint alleges that Google not only violated its terms of service, but also profits from "ten years and tens of millions of dollars" that Genius has spent to build its business and database. "Over the last two years, we've shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius", Ben Gross, the company's chief strategy officer, told The Wall Street Journal.

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