Morse Code Helps Prove Google is Stealing Content from

Posted on June 16, 2019 by Brad Sams in Google with 25 Comments

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 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

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 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.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Morse Code Helps Prove Google is Stealing Content from”

  1. Bats

    I'm sorry, but I fail to see how this is an "abuse" of power? How is this action, allegedly by Google, an example of their marketplace position?

    "And as it becomes more clear exactly how powerful has become and how much control...."

    LOL....I don't get it. Again, how is this related to market positioning? Only the market leaders can do this?

    The WSJ article Samms refers to make no mention of anti-trust activity, with regards to this issue. It mentions the possible anti-trust probe, but only as a separate matter. However, here, Brad Samms is saying that they are related.

    "Google has been found to be using content from without attribution, this is one more piece of evidence of the company potentially abusing its position in the marketplace" - Brad Samms

    This reminds me of the time, he also post that the Surface Headset was so popular that MSFT encored with earbuds. I know he changed it later, I also remember the time he called the Surface Pro, the "darling of the pc industry." LOL. This is hilarious.

    Exactly where is Brad Samms from? Is it from a state where recreational marijuana is legal? (lol)

    • Stooks

      In reply to Bats:

      -20 nice. Everyone that comes to this site knows you are probably a Google employee or a super fan. Hard ignore on your comments when it comes to matters of Google.

    • garethb

      In reply to Bats:

      Such quality in these here 'Standard' comments....

    • cuthbert51

      In reply to Bats:

      " Is it from a state where recreational marijuana is legal?"
      At this point, it's not really relevant to anything. A full 25% of the US population is in states with recreational marijuana.

      You are right about the pathetic whining about Google, though. So, good job on that one, I guess.

      Not sure what to make of the "(lol)" at the end. And calling the Surface Pro the darling of the industry at one point isn't really that far off. Or you don't understand the phrase. With the use of the pointless "LOL"'s in this, I'm guessing the latter.

      (well, those are ugly red lines. No clue how that happened.)
  2. louda55

    As a former "Dit Chaser", I love this article.

  3. nobody9

    Assuming Google can prove that it's obtaining the this data from a licensed third party (like they say they are), Genius has no leg to stand on. Genius, as you pointed out, is not guiltless either.

  4. randallcorn

    --. --- --- -.. / --. .-. .. . ..-.

  5. markbyrn

    Legality aside, scumbaggery comes to mind.

  6. Stooks

    Google and Facebook......avoid when possible. The are the very reason behind things like GDPR, which the US needs badly.

  7. pixymisa

    "Trap streets" - the same trick for maps and street directories - have previously been ruled uncopyrightable in the US.

    If Google don't have a license to the lyrics, the copyright holders (not Genius) can sue. If they have the necessary license, all is good. Genius don't have a leg to stand on as far as a direct lawsuit goes.

    But abuse of monopoly power is a different matter; actions that might be legal for a small competitor of Genius might be ruled unacceptable when Google does the same thing. That's where this will get interesting.

    • wright_is

      In reply to PixyMisa:

      Except that they have proven that Google is scraping their site for the data without compensation. IF they were getting the lyrics directly from the publishers, Genius wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But Genius have proven that Google is taking their content without remuneration or credit, they aren't using any licensed lyrics.

      • nicholas_kathrein

        In reply to wright_is:

        No they didn't prove Google did anything. All they proved is Google has the same lyrics. What if maybe Google pays for the lyrics from another company and that company stole the lyrics. Not Googles fault. They should stop doing business with that company now that they know the company has broken their trust. That's about it.

  8. codymesh

    Genius move from Genius.

    this is not the only thing - Google has taken advantage of various popular top results and sites like Wikipedia to be able to give answers, and Google gets to pass it off as their search engine having all the answers.

    For many of these top results, Google surfacing the content directly at the top destroys the traffic - and ad revenue - that the page would get.

    Also you would think the readership of this site would understand this issue but of course, for some, Google can do no wrong, and hOw iS ThIs aN AbUsE Of pOwEr

  9. datameister

    Morse Code. Genius!

  10. MikeGalos

    Ah, good old "Don't Be Evil Unless There's A Buck In It For Us"

  11. Lucas

    If true, Genius may have, in addition to tort and breach of contract claims, a compilation copyright infringement claim.

  12. cuthbert51

    Sorry, Genius, nobody cares. If the claims are true, and I have no reason to doubt it, it's perfectly fine. You're a lyric site, Genius. You provide a service that is nice, but isn't something that actually matters. Quit whining.

  13. Lordbaal

    Google just uses popular site that people are using. It all have to do with SEO.