Google Responds to Accusations of Plagiarizing Lyrics — And Blames It All on LyricFind

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We will steal your lyrics and you will like it. (photo: Niharb (CC by 2.0))

After Google partner Lyricfind admitted to ‘minuscule’ levels of plagiarism, Google is now weighing in.

Google has responded to accusations made by Genius, a well-known resource for viewing and commenting on the lyrics of popular songs. Genius long suspected that Google had copied and pasted its lyrics, thereby stealing web traffic away from Genius.

The short version of these accusations, which were covered earlier this week, is that Google’s song lyrics were oddly accurate, especially on tracks that Genius has exclusive access to (i.e. studio-provided versions). Genius began writing lyrics’ apostrophes in different fonts, and these same fonts (which can only be seen if one’s looking for them) were (surprise) found in Google’s lyrics.

The embedded apostrophes spelled out ‘Red Handed’ in Morse Code.

Google’s official statement noted the nuances and considerations of posting lyrics online, and in addition, a rather detailed explanation of the process was enclosed. The translation, for those who don’t feel like deciphering the message, is simple:

We (Google) don’t search for song lyrics online. When music publishers don’t provide these lyrics, we pay a third-party company to provide them for us. If there’s an issue with copied lyrics, our third-party provider—not us—is at fault.

So what happens to Google’s third-party scapegoat?

On that point, the statement also revealed that Google doesn’t plan to cease working with LyricFind, their lyrics provider. Rather, they want LyricFind “to investigate the issue to ensure that they’re following industry best (sic) practices in their approach.”

Translation: If you stop copying and pasting the lyrics posted by other companies, you’ll be fine.

LyricFind, for their part, released a statement saying, in effect, that the issue is being blown out of proportion, as the lyrics in-question represent a tiny portion of the total transcribed lyrics. So perhaps a little bit of stealing is okay.

Google’s response indicated that third-party contributors of song lyrics will soon be attributed on search-result pages. This measure is hardly a solution to the underlying problem — one lyrics company taking another lyrics company’s work — but one would think that the public scrutiny and Google’s threats to cancel their agreement with LyricFind will improve the situation.