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The truth starts to emerge about Genius / Google lyrics row


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The blame game continues in the row over how lyrics from Genius, complete with their unique apostrophe patterns, found their way into Google’s lyric search results. Genius had its say to the Wall Street Journal for the article that brought the argument to public notice, but now Google and one of its key lyrics partners, LyricFind, have been blogging their responses.

LyricFind took aim at “inaccuracies” in that original report, but did admit that it was the source for the lyrics in question, and that some of them did originate from Genius. Its blog post outlines the process by which it sources lyrics “from numerous sources (including direct from artists, publishers, and songwriters)” and then corrects that data.

On the lyrics identified by Genius: “All of those examples were also available on many other lyric sites and services, raising the possibility that our team unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location,” claimed LyricFind. “Genius claims, and the WSJ repeated, that there are 100 lyrics from Genius in our database. To put this into perspective, our database currently contains nearly 1.5 million lyrics. In the last year alone, our content team created approximately 100,000 new lyric files. The scale of Genius’ claims is minuscule and clearly not systemic.”

Then came Google’s blog post, setting out its own workflow and policies (including the pointed reminder that “music publishers often don’t have digital copies of the lyrics text” – hence its partnerships with companies like LyricFind). Google also firmly punted the responsibility in this particular dispute back to that partner.

“News reports this week suggested that one of our lyrics content providers is in a dispute with a lyrics site about where their written lyrics come from. We’ve asked our lyrics partner to investigate the issue to ensure that they’re following industry best practices in their approach. We always strive to uphold high standards of conduct for ourselves and from the partners we work with,” it claimed. “To help make it clearer where the lyrics come from, we’ll soon include attribution to the third party providing the digital lyrics text.”

External commentators are looking on with a degree of bemusement. “All of this demonstrates just how idiotic the whole ‘licensing of lyrics’ business is – considering that what everyone here is admitting is that even when they license lyrics, they’re making it up much of the time,” is how Techdirt put it. “If the publishers don’t even know the lyrics they’re licensing, then what the f**k are they licensing in the first place? The right to try to decipher the lyrics that they supposedly hold a copyright on? Really?”

Where do we go from here? Well, yet another lyrics-licensing dispute. Publisher Wixen is suing Pandora, for displaying lyrics by artists including Tom Petty, Weezer and Rage Against The Machine “without any valid license or authorization”. Pandora has been displaying lyrics since 2009, when Gracenote was its launch partner, and now works with… LyricFind! But Wixen is arguing that these agreements do not cover its catalogue. The publisher previously challenged Spotify over copyright infringement (of songs, not lyrics) – a case that was settled in December 2018. Pandora and LyricFind have yet to comment.

Stuart Dredge

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