Google’s search engine is the entry point to the Internet for a significant number of people around the globe. Open your browser, enter a search query, and you begin your journey to finding information across the massive infrastructure that is known as the Internet.
Because of this, Google wields a significant amount of power over what and how users see content. A few years ago, Google began supplementing search results with ‘information panels, as Google calls them, and these panels have been using lyrics from Genius.com without compensation.
But for Genius, they needed a way to prove that the lyrics were coming from their site and not another source and they caught Google lifting the content by using Morse code. According to WSJ, Genius changed how apostrophes were used in lyrics, switching between straight and curly, in the lyrics, and when converted to dots and dashes, the code spells out “Red Handed”.
When the apostrophe pattern showed up in Google’s search results, it became clear that the content was being directly lifted from Genius and not another source.
For Genius, it’s not quite clear if they have a case against Google as the company licenses the lyrics from record labels and does not own them. But, they do own the website Google is lifting the content from without attribution, and this is being used to further Google’s objective of improving it’s search results while also being able to show additional advertisements at the detriment of Genius.com.
Of course, there is a bit of irony in the complaint by Genius too. The company got its start by stealing lyrics from other sites and only started licensing the lyrics after it faced legal pressure.
Considering that Google may be facing a new antitrust investigation in the US, this is one more piece of evidence of the company potentially abusing its position in the marketplace. And as it becomes more clear exactly how powerful Google.com has become and how much control it has over content on the Internet, one more piece of negative publicity at this time is not a good thing for Alphabet Inc.