Genius Sues Google for Allegedly Stealing Lyrics After Busting It With Hidden Code, 'Red Handed'

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Screenshot: Genius Media

Genius has filed a lawsuit against Google alleging that the tech giant copied lyrics from its song-annotation platform.

In the suit, which first reported by Wall Street Journal, Genius claims that the lyric licensing company LyricFind pulled lyrics from Genius’ pages, and that Google used those lyrics in its search result displays.


As the lawsuit explains, Genius believes it caught Google and LyricFind by developing a unique watermark after it grew suspicious that Google was stealing the digital media company’s content. In an effort to bust Google, Genius used alternating types of apostrophes—varying between curly and straight—in a sequence that spelled out “red handed” in Morse code.

Genius first shared its hidden code and publicly accused Google of lifting lyrics five months ago. “Google knowingly displays lyrics that are copied from Genius in search results in order to keep users from leaving Google to go to other sites,” Genius’s chief strategy officer, Ben Gross, told Gizmodo in June. “They have known about this for two years and it’s clearly unfair and anticompetitive.”


LyricFind and Genius did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s requests for comment on this lawsuit.

Responding to a request for comment, a Google spokesperson referred Gizmodo to a blog post that Google published on the day the allegations of copying were originally made public. The post claims that when publishers don’t provide digital copies of lyrics, Google licenses the text from third parties.


“We do not crawl or scrape websites to source these lyrics,” the blog reads. “The lyrics that you see in information boxes on Search come directly from lyrics content providers, and they are updated automatically as we receive new lyrics and corrections on a regular basis.”

LyricFind also released a statement that day suggesting it may have “unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location.”