“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence
again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from
Genius,” said Ben Gross, Genius’s chief strategy officer, in an
email message. The company said it used a watermarking system in
its lyrics that embedded patterns in the formatting of
apostrophes. Genius said it found more than 100 examples of songs
on Google that came from its site.
Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle
change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the
lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks
in exactly the same sequence for every song.
When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and
dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red
I love the technique Genius came up with here. It’s like one of the tricks from the old Encyclopedia Brown books I so loved as a kid. It’s preposterous that Google is denying that they did anything wrong here. They truly were caught red-handed.
What I love about this too is that it preys on Google’s institutional lack of attention to typography. All Google would have had to do to avoid getting caught by this scheme is notice that the lyrics they were copying had inconsistent apostrophes. Straight quotes are bad enough, but a seemingly random mix of straight and curly quotes should stick out to anyone paying any attention to the details.