Genius alleges that traffic to its site started to drop because its lyrics – which are annotated by its contributors – are being copied, and then published by Google via the tech giant’s lyrics partner, LyricFind.
The lawsuit was filed in New York on Tuesday (December 3) and seeks “no less than $50 million” in “combined minimum damages” from both Google and Canada-based LyricFind.
“Defendants Google LLC and LyricFind have been caught red-handed misappropriating content from Genius’s website, which they have exploited—and continue to exploit—for their own financial benefit.”
The suit reads: “One of Genius’s primary services is the development and maintenance of a vast repository of annotated music lyrics, some of which are artist-supplied and many of which are transcribed and refined by a community of over two million Genius contributors.
“Defendants Google LLC and LyricFind have been caught red-handed misappropriating content from Genius’s website, which they have exploited—and continue to exploit—for their own financial benefit and to Genius’s financial detriment.”
It adds: “This action seeks to halt Defendants’ unethical and unfair anticompetitive practices, as well as to recover damages for violations of Genius’s Terms of Service as a result of defendants’ misappropriation.”
In June, a Wall Street Journal article suggested that Google had been publishing lyrics taken directly from Genius.
Writing in a blog post in response to that piece, LyricFind argued that the lyrics it uses are taken from multiple sources before being edited, corrected and then published.
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 obviously declined that offer.
Today, the WSJ reports that the new Genius lawsuit “puts the spotlight on growing concerns that big tech companies like Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., can stifle smaller competitors through some of their business practices”.
Genius figured out that its lyrics were being lifted, explained the WSJ over the summer, because it inserted a sequence of punctuation into its lyrics that spelled out “Red Handed” when converted to Morse code.
Ben Gross, Genius’s Chief Strategy Officer, told the WSJ in the summer: “Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius.”
Wrote LyricFind in its response: “Some time ago, Ben Gross from Genius notified LyricFind that they believed they were seeing Genius lyrics in LyricFind’s database.
“As a courtesy to Genius, our content team was instructed not to consult Genius as a source. Recently, Genius raised the issue again and provided a few examples.
“All of those examples were also available on many other lyric sites and services, raising the possibility that our team unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location.”Music Business Worldwide