Lyrics Site Uses Watermarks To Prove Google Lifts Its Content For Search Results

Google said it’s investigating why the lyrics of some songs originating from Genius served up in search results without creator rights permission, after the lyrics site embedded patterns in its formatting to prove the search engine scraped its site for content.

Genius created a system using apostrophes, both straight and curly single-quote marks, to embed watermark patterns in its lyrics. The two types of apostrophes are converted into dots and dashes similar to Morse code, spelling out the words “Red Handed.”

It all began in 2016 with subtle changes to some of the songs on Genius website, which over time found more than 100 examples of songs on Google in search results, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Genius Chief Strategy Officer Ben Gross told the WSJ that the company notified Google in 2017, and then again in April 2019, that copied transcriptions were being indexed in Google Search.

Google said the lyrics on its site that serve up in the information panel in search results are licensed from partners and not created by the search engine.

“We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement,” Google told the WSJ.

Google partnered with Canadian-based LyricFind in 2016, to secure deals with music publishers allowing search engines like Google to publish lyrics online. But LyricFind Chief Executive Darryl Ballantyne in an email told The Wall Street Journal that the company creates lyrics using its own content team and does not source content from Google.

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