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Genius Used a Typography Trick to Bust Google For Stealing Lyrics

June 17th 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Hard Science
Victor Tangermann

Scrub Your Metadata

Genius, a website of annotated song lyrics, used a neat typographic trick to show that Google has been stealing its content.

Since 2017, the company has accused Google of pilfering its lyrics to display as part of Google’s search results. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that a coded message — specifically hidden in the lyrics by Genius — has shown up on Google searches, lending new evidence to the claims through a clever bit of digital forensics.

Red Handed

For the last three years, Genius has been posting lyrics with a specific pattern of punctuation, according to the WSJ. If you look through the apostrophes in Genius’ song lyrics, you’ll see that the curved and straight-line apostrophes spell out “Red Handed” in Morse code.

Genius claims to have found 100 songs in Google search results that mirror that same pattern, indicating that Google is lifting song lyrics from the site without even changing the formatting.

The Buck

Google told the WSJ that it doesn’t create the content that pops up during searches but rather licenses it from third party companies.

Even if Google is copying lyrics from Genius, the latter doesn’t actually own any of the songs it posts, so a lawsuit might not get very far. Rather, the lyrics database seems to be banking on the power of its “gotcha!” moment to convince Google to play by the rules.

READ MORE: Lyrics Site Accuses Google of Lifting Its Content [The Wall Street Journal]

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