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The lyrics site Genius says it’s caught Google “red-handed” copying it, files $50 million lawsuit

The lyrics site Genius says it’s caught Google “red-handed” copying it, files $50 million lawsuit
[Photo: DESIGNECOLOGIST/Unsplash]

Genius, a website for finding and annotating lyrics, slapped Google with a $50 million lawsuit today, accusing the search engine and a partner of copying its content, violating its terms of service, and engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

Genius’s beef with Google made headlines earlier this year, but it apparently dates back to at least 2017. That’s when the lyrics site says it first accused Google of displaying its content in search results without permission. More than two years later, Genius alleges in its lawsuit that Google and its partner, LyricFind, “continue to exploit content misappropriated from Genius’s website while apparently attempting to conceal that misappropriation.”

As the Verge reports, this lawsuit is tricky because neither Genius nor Google owns the copyrights to the song lyrics they’re publishing. Both companies license the right to display lyrics through music publishers and artists. But Genius says it put in time and money (“ten years and tens of millions of dollars”) toward building up “a platform for music enthusiasts who transcribe music lyrics,” and it’s accusing Google and LyricFind of taking that work, deterring people who search for song lyrics from visiting Genius’s website.

Regardless of how the lawsuit plays out, it’s a bad look for Google, given the company’s size and the attention it’s already drawn from antitrust regulators over alleged antitrust behavior. What may still be most interesting, however, is how Genius claims it caught Google and LyricFind in the act—by using straight and curly apostrophes to spell out “Red Handed” in Morse code on Google’s search results, according to the Wall Street Journals earlier report.

Fast Company has contacted Google for comment on the lawsuit. Reached by CNBC, a spokesperson directed the publication to a post it published in June in response to the Journal’s prior report.

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