Genius raps Google with $50 million lawsuit over scraped content

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What you need to know

  • Genius (formerly Rap Genius) is suing Google for copying its version of song lyrics.
  • Genius previously asked Google to stop, but has proof the practice continued.
  • The suit asks for at least $50 million in damages.

Lyrics and annotation web site Genius, formerly known as Rap Genius, is suing Google over allegations the search company directly copied song lyrics from Genius' site then repackaged them as Google search results.

Since 2014, Genius has had a deal with music publishers that allows the company to make lyrics available. Google apparently ripped off the exact text from the Genius page, including strange spacing and apostrophe placements that acted as a digital fingerprint and allowed Genius to track the theft. Genius originally complained about the practice in June.

This week, WSJ reports that Genius is suing both Google and LyricFind, the third-party company that Google contracts to generate its lyrics query results. The suit was filed in Brooklyn and Genius is asking for a minimum of $50 million in damages.

The question will be whether the Genius deal to publish lyrics allows the company to actually own the copy of the lyrics it publishes. Genius claims the move caused the site to lose traffic, saying that Google's actions were anti-competitive. While Google hasn't responded, LyricFind spokespeople were quoted calling the lawsuit "frivolous and without merit."

Google and Genius have a sordid past, but this is Genius' first turn playing the victim. In 2013, the site gamed Google search results, leading Google to take the rare move of temporarily downlisting the site on its search pages, crushing the site's traffic. Genius says that Google's recent moves caused massive drops, citing a Selena Gomez track that dropped from a 75% clickthrough from Google search to a 5% clickthrough after Google started posting the Genius lyrics directly.

Philip Berne