Dumbest 'Gotcha' Story Of The Week: Google, Genius And The Copying Of Licensed Lyrics

from the red-handed...-at-what? dept

You may have seen this story in various forms over the weekend, starting with a big Wall Street Journal article (paywall likely) claiming that Genius caught Google "red handed" in copying lyrics from its site. Lots of other articles on the story use the term "red handed" in the title, and you'll understand why in a moment. However, there's a lot of background to go over here -- and while many Google haters are making a big deal out of this news, after going through the details, it seems like (mostly) a completely over-hyped, ridiculous story.

First, a little background: for pretty much the entire existence of this site, we've written about legal disputes concerning lyrics sites -- going all the way back to a story in 2000 about LyricFind (remember that name?) preemptively shutting itself down to try to work out "licensing" deals for the copyright on lyrics. Over the years, publishers have routinely freaked out and demanded money from lyrics sites. As we've pointed out over and over again, it was never clear how this made any sense at all -- especially on crowd sourced lyrics sites. It's not as though lyrics sites are taking away from the sales of the music -- if anything, they're the kinds of thing that connects people more deeply to the music and would help improve other aspects of the music business ecosystem.

Over time, however, more and more sites realized that it was just easier to pay up than fight it out in court. One of those sites was Genius -- originally "RapGenius" -- which was called out by the National Music Publisher's Association as one of the "worst" infringers out there a few years back. Genius eventually caved in and agreed to license lyrics, despite incredibly strong fair use claims (since the whole point of Genius was to allow for annotation and commentary).

However, in this latest case, it's now Genius that's complaining about someone else copying its content. Except... it's not Genius' content. This is what makes the story bizarre -- which we'll get to in a moment. However, first, it is worth highlighting the somewhat fun way in which Genius apparently "caught" Google using content from the Genius site as its source material. Basically, Genius hid a code in whether it used "straight" apostrophes or curly "smart" apostrophes:

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 Handed.”

The WSJ shows the following example from a snippet of lyrics from the Alessia Cara song "Not Today."

So, this secret bit of encoding is kinda clever (as is the use of Morse code and the message it spells out). But, despite everyone freaking out over this, there's a pretty big question? Does this even matter? And while CBS stupidly and incorrectly claims that Genius is suing Google over this, there's no indication of any actual lawsuit yet, and it's not clear what they could actually sue over.

First off, despite the headline accusations against Google, Google (1) licenses lyrics itself, and (2) gets them from LyricFind (remember them?) with whom it signed a big deal a few years back. This raises a few different issues.

First, as law professor Annemarie Briday noted, since both Genius and Google license the lyrics, it doesn't really matter where they're sourced from, as regards to copyright law:

Indeed, in many ways, the situation reminds me of an important Supreme Court ruling from 1991 in Feist v. Rural Telephone Services. In that case, you had a telephone company that inserted fictitious residents and phone numbers into its phone books to catch anyone copying straight from its own directory. And, indeed, it caught Feist ("red handed") copying directly from its phone books, by finding the fictitious entries in Feist's directory. However, as the Supreme Court noted, there was no copyright interest in phone numbers, which were factual information. This was the case that explicitly rejected the "sweat of the brow" theory of copyright, saying that you only get copyright in new creative works.

This situation is not identical, because there is clearly a copyright interest in the lyrics, but since both parties (actually, all three parties, if we include LyricFind) have properly licensed the works, then we're in the same basic legal framework. Anyone who is allowed to post these lyrics can and should be able to get them from anywhere.

The second reason why this story is likely all hype and no substance is the role of LyricFind. Google basically said "hey, we just get stuff from our partners, and don't scrape, so if there's a problem... it's from our partners." From the WSJ:

In a written statement, Google said the lyrics on its site, which pop up in little search-result squares called “information panels,” are licensed from partners, not created by Google.

“We take data quality and creator rights very seriously and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement,” Google said.

After this article was published online Sunday, Google issued a second statement to say it was investigating the issue raised by Genius and would terminate its agreements with partners who were “not upholding good practices.”

LyricFind separately denied copying from Genius, but that seems like a more likely culprit. In its own blog post, LyricFind says that it supplied the lyrics for Google, but denies copying from Genius, and says that the WSJ got a bunch of facts wrong:

The lyrics in question were provided to Google by LyricFind, as was confirmed to WSJ prior to publication. Google licenses lyrics content from music publishers (the rightful owner of the lyrics) and from LyricFind. To accuse them of any wrongdoing is extremely misleading.

LyricFind invests heavily in a global content team to build its database. That content team will often start their process with a copy of the lyric from numerous sources (including direct from artists, publishers, and songwriters), and then proceed to stream, correct, and synchronize that data. Most content our team starts with requires significant corrections before it goes live in our database.

Some time ago, Ben Gross from Genius notified LyricFind that they believed they were seeing Genius lyrics in LyricFind’s database. As a courtesy to Genius, our content team was instructed not to consult Genius as a source. Recently, Genius raised the issue again and provided a few examples. 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.

As a result, LyricFind offered to remove any lyrics Genius felt had originated from them, even though we did not source them from Genius’ site. Genius declined to respond to that offer. Despite that, our team is currently investigating the content in our database and removing any lyrics that seem to have originated from Genius.

The company also pointed out that Genius has only identified approximately 100 songs that were copied, and it has 1.5 million in its database, suggesting that it's not in the business of regularly copying from Genius. But, again, it's not clear why it would really matter that much either way, since everyone is licensed.

To put it another way: Genius' license to the lyrics does not grant it any other rights beyond being able to display those lyrics itself. It has no exclusivity. It doesn't hold the copyright. And, no, changing a few apostrophes is unlikely to meet the creative bar to get a new derivative copyright. So, there's no additional right that Genius has to stop another licensee from using its version of the lyrics.

There's a separate issue here worth noting as well: 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. Specifically, what people are noting is that they license lyrics from the publishers, but the publishers themselves rarely even have or know the lyrics they're licensing, so lyrics sites try to figure them out themselves and "create" the lyrics file which may or may not be accurate. Indeed, the WSJ reports that this is why Genius first became suspicious of Google -- because on one particularly difficult to understand track, it had reached out to the musician directly for the lyrics, and then was surprised to see the same version on Google.

But... if the publishers don't even know they lyrics they're licensing, then what the fuck are they licensing in the first place? The right to try to decipher the lyrics that they supposedly hold a copyright on? Really?

One music guy suggested that a different "source" of the "problem" (if you do consider it a problem), is that since the publishers have no idea what the lyrics are anyway, THEY might be sourcing the lyrics themselves from Genius and then passing them along to Genius.

In short, the whole lyrics/copyright space remains a clusterfuck. But it's difficult to see how it's at all Google's fault.

Some people have raised a few other possible legal arguments that have at least somewhat more merit than any copyright claim, but still strike me as incredibly weak. First, there's the argument that this kind of scraping violates Genius' terms of service. Of course, that opens a Pandora's box of how enforceable click through terms of service actually are (though, many courts have found them binding). But then it will matter quite a bit as to whether or not it was actually Google, LyricFind or someone else who copied the content from Genius. And, given everything discussed above, tracking that down seems almost impossible -- and given the low number of "copied" lyrics found, it certainly doesn't appear to be a major automated scraping situation.

The other possibility that a few people have suggested, is that there are competition/antitrust arguments to be made against Google here. That argument boils down to Google using its size and position to abuse that position to harm the competitor Genius. And... maybe? There was a similar complaint a few years ago about Google apparently sinking a site that tried to estimate the "net worth" of celebrities, by posting that info in a Google "answer box" and not having people click through to the celebrity site.

But that argument also strikes me as incredibly weak for multiple reasons. First, if Google putting the info from your site in an answer box destroys all your traffic and your business, then, um, you didn't have very much of a business in the first place, and it's not clear that your site really adds that much value. At the very least, it suggests that your business is not that defensible. In the case of Genius, the site has long insisted that its real value was in the annotations, not just the lyrics. But now it's complaining that showing just the lyrics (which tons of other sites also have) is somehow removing traffic? That's... weak. Second, going by consumer benefit alone, Google has a pretty strong argument that displaying this information (and again, with lyrics, it's all properly licensed) is a lot better for the users than shunting them off to a third party site. And, third, as evidence above, it doesn't appear that Google actually did anything here at all. Other than properly licensing lyrics via LyricFind. It's very difficult to see how there's any antitrust issue with that.

In the end, this is an interesting story -- especially in highlighting how Google was "caught" -- but it's hard to see what the actual legal problem is here. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Google, but the fact that its properly licensed lyrics matches someone else's properly licensed lyrics, doesn't seem like one of them.

Filed Under: antitrust, competition, copyright, licensing, lyrics, scraping, terms of service
Companies: genius, google, lyricfind


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  • icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 6:48am

    Everything Must Be Owned

    In a world where everything must be owned, I daresay Genius will be using its apostrophe type choices to spell out "Red Handed" as the copyrighted item.

    Butter the popcorn, people, this should be fun!

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  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 6:58am

    Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

    My only question here is why shouldn't lyric sites be licensed? I get that they aren't directly competing with the music, but at the end of the day, lyrics do meet the bar of creative expression. Just because they are read vs. listened to doesn't change that fact.

    The fair use claim of transformative, I can understand, but doubt it would hold up. If people commenting and annotating song lyrics might be informational, but you could argue the same thing of an entire book. I don't think that many authors would appreciate their entire book being posted online for free under the guise of "but annotations!".

    Keep in mind I think that these sites have value outside of the song themselves. I understand that they do not compete, but you do this to poems, you'd have problems as well I would surmise.

    Just something to discuss.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:27am

      Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

      The point there is, why would one not even get absolutely official kyrics if one is licensing them? That's a problem. The reason there are so many "figure out the lyrics" sites is that... there are no official published lyrics to be found.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:45am

      Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

      The fair use claim of transformative, I can understand, but doubt it would hold up. If people commenting and annotating song lyrics might be informational, but you could argue the same thing of an entire book.

      Lyrics have only occasionally been treated as poetry in their own right. Usually with a book, the text is the only important part; a copy of the text can substitute for a book.

      Consider the standard fair-use factors for lyrics without music:
      1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes — they're meant to help people understand an original work, not replace it; usually it's a non-profit use
      2) the nature of the copyrighted work — meant to accompany music and considered incomplete on their own
      3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole — see point 2
      4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work — near zero; who's ever read the words to a song and decided it's pointless to hear the thing now?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 10:36am

        Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

        On number 4 I can say yes this will happen, not enough to tip the scales of deprofiting a song but enough that people could find it useful.

        Remember the FBI and citizens trying to find out what lyrics were said in the song Louie Louie, by the kingsmen? People thought thw song had bad lyrics and stuff so it should be banned. Had they just seen lyrics they would have been fine with tbe song.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2019 @ 7:40pm

        Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

        Come on now. Either the work is the whole song or the work is the lyrics; you can't change which it is in the middle of the analysis just to get a more favorable result.

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    • identicon
      TRX, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:11am

      Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

      Lyrics go hand in hand with musical scores, and copyright enforcement goes way back.

      "Happy Birthday to you!
      If you sing this, we'll sue!
      Because we own the copyright to
      Happy Birthday to you!"

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      • identicon
        Please educate yourself, 18 Jun 2019 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

        Not anywhere near how it happens you can sing The happy Birthday song all day. its amazing how dumb people are and what they believe just because some other idiot said it

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 3:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

          Idiot alert!

          Until just a few years ago you could get sued for singing it to your customers in a restaurant.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

            Copyright fanboys always have had a thing for flipping back and forth.

            Copyright infringement and suing about is serious business... until people pointed out that copyright owners were assholes for suing about singing Happy Birthday, so the fans insisted that "private performances" wouldn't be sued. Except that the line between "public" versus "private" performances has been constantly blurred.

            There's also the fact that Warner was found to have pocketed millions from the supposedly non-lucrative copyright on the song that was never revealed until lawyers decided to dig a little.

            It's almost like copyright enforcement is dependent on whether a venture is lucrative as opposed to, you know... actually following the law. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 19 Jun 2019 @ 1:05am

          Re: Re: Re: Side Question: Aren't Lyrics Poems?

          Documented factual information is a problem to you now, or is it just that you have to ignore history and context in order to say things?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:07am

    Oh the irony - We have copied the song writes lyrics, so how dare somebody do the same to us.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:41am

    Blinded by the light, rammed up like a docent in the humble of the might.

    I have seen the same badly incorrect lyrics at every lyrics site. Who scrapes who, or who cross-posts everywhere? This stuff is nearly all UGC, so idk where Genius gets off whining about anything.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:46am

      I have seen the same badly incorrect lyrics at every lyrics site.

      At least that’s a fairly cleaner mondegreen than the one I’m used to hearing in my head. 😆

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      • icon
        Optical Point (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:56am

        ...

        To be fair, some sites will alter the lyrics if there is a cuss-word or any inappropriate hint within the lyrics to make their site more appropriate for kids. They don’t want little kids to be exposed to sheer violence hidden within a song whose lyrics show indications of violence.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:55am

      Re:

      How's the grieving for Hansmeier coming along, Herrick?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:55am

    there's a bathroom on the right

    Who owns the copyright upon mis-heard lyrics?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:58am

      Re: there's a bathroom on the right

      All the lonely Starbucks lovers.

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      • icon
        Optical Point (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:01am

        Re: Re: there's a bathroom on the right

        But how does Copyright even relate to “There’s a Bathroom On The Right”
        Unless someone put laxatives in the Starbucks coffee.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:57am

        Re: Re: there's a bathroom on the right

        Who owns the copyright upon mis-heard lyrics?

        Re: there's a bathroom on the right
        All the lonely Starbucks lovers.

        I had some theories but they were just clowns in my coffee...excuse me while I kiss this guy and then I'll be back with more of an answer.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 7:37pm

      Re: who owns "there's a bathroom on the right"?

      Bob Rivers.

      Definitely.

      I read all about it the last time I went to the loo.

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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:02am

    So... Google legally licences lyrics and they get blamed anyway even though they're 100% following the law? Sounds about right, and that both handily illustrates why they're no longer bending backwards to accommodate the record labels. It's also hard to see what this long-running attack on indexing sites actually does except make it harder for people to find that song they kind of remember half a line from the chorus of.

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  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:04am

    That is it, I am creating a bad lyrics site where only wrong lyrics that sound right can be posted.

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    identicon
    Jack Forbodians Troutbridge, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:13am

    GOOGLE always appears innocent in pieces chosen for the purpose.

    Neatly circular re-inforcing: Masnick only runs pieces in which GOOGLE is arguably innocent, and GOOGLE chooses to "sponsor" Masnick for that very trait.

    Masnick ignores GOOGLE news if looks bad. Period.

    Here's a sample of the much larger areas he's currently ignoring:

    REVEALED: Two More Google Blacklists Designed To Remove `Fringe Domains' And Op-Eds From Special Search Results

    At least two other blacklists are applied to Google's web answers feature, one of which is manually edited, documents obtained by The Daily Caller indicate. ... In screenshots of the blacklist shared with The Daily Caller, the instructions at the top of the page say, "To ensure the blacklist will REMOVE a URL, add a line # REMOVE url'." And, "To ensure the blacklist WON'T remove a URL by accident, add# PERMIT url'," indicating that the blacklist is manually edited.

    https://dailycaller.com/2019/06/11/revealed-two-google-blacklists-fringe-domains-special-se arch-results/

    GOOGLE giving Beto special ad placement...
    https://qz.com/1641096/googles-systems-didnt-see-beto-orourkes-ads-as-political/

    GOOGLE : YOUTUBE too big to fix...
    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/17/google-ceo-sundar-pichai-youtube-is-too-big-to-fix.html

    Tech giants head down 'dangerous' censorship path

    No doubt, there is a ton of hostile and false nonsense floating around on these sites. The tech giants created these platforms as open forums, so they had to know these sites would attract all kinds of bizarre content, some of it crossing the line into the outrageous. That didn't seem to bother the tech entrepreneurs over the years, as social media firmly implanted itself into the culture. The tech superstars got rich and famous while society careened into a ravine of harebrained technological determinism.

    Now the social media leaders feel compelled to convince the nation they can responsibly manage the unmanageable. Their actions are not so much philanthropic as they are self-preservative. If they were such nice guys, they would have paid more attention to the toxicity as it grew over the years. Now, in response to Congressional anger and pressure for community censorship from cyber mobs, the executives at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter want to act all righteous by deplatforming provocateurs.

    https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/448820-tech-giants-head-down-dangerous-censors hip-path

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  • icon
    hij (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:13am

    Can Genius Change Songs Like That?

    So Genius is openly admitting that it is changing the text of copyrighted material. Even though it is a small and subtle change, they are making changes to the lyrics and then publishing the changes. Does copyright allow for those kinds of changes to be made without permission from the copyright owner?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:34am

      Re: Can Genius Change Songs Like That?

      So Genius is openly admitting that it is changing the text of copyrighted material.

      Are they, though?

      If they changed all of the apostrophes from straight single quotes to angled single quotes, that would be regarded as a formatting change, not a change to the text itself. Similarly, replacing all angled quotes with straight quotes would also be regarded as a formatting change.

      This is an inconsistent use of apostrophes, rather than either of the above, but it's the same kind of formatting change, rather than a change to the text.

      As another example (assuming American style guidelines): If you quote someone who has quoted someone else, the inner quote uses single quotation marks within the outer, double quotation marks, even though the original that you're quoting would have double quotes around the inner quote.

      Would you consider that to be a change to a copyrighted text?

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      • icon
        hij (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 9:13am

        Re: Re: Can Genius Change Songs Like That?

        I do no know what to think of it. I am largely ignorant of these kinds of details. They are encoding information and changing the appearance so it seems like more than just formatting. I personally do not think that it should be subject to copyright restrictions, but my views have been wildly different than the media companies that retain these copyrights.

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        • identicon
          TFG, 18 Jun 2019 @ 10:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Can Genius Change Songs Like That?

          In my opinion, the best test is to check if it changes the meaning. Changing punctuation etc. can be a simple formatting change, but if it changes the actual meaning of the text, then it's not just simple formatting change.

          Altering the style of apostrophe used doesn't alter the meaning of the lyrics. Altering the font lyrics are displayed in generally doesn't alter the meaning of the lyrics. Etc.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:21am

    Google's abhorrent behavior is really keeping Masnick busy these days, isn't it? lol

    Need these articles though, for the "results" when people search for news on the subject.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:45am

    Censorship test.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 8:57am

    I'm guessing that they're claiming infringement of their derivative work.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 9:36am

      Re:

      I'm guessing that they're claiming infringement of their derivative work.

      Please explain how changing the "style" of an apostrophe qualifies as derivative work?

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 9:34am

    Copyright - Finding new ways for people even further down the pyramid to make cash by suing other people.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 9:42am

    But it's difficult to see how it's at all Google's fault.

    Google has plenty of money, so it must be Google's fault. Google can also be blamed for events that have no possible causal connection to Google, such as ills that occurred before Google was founded.

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  • identicon
    Comboman, 18 Jun 2019 @ 9:48am

    Here's a thought experiment

    In 1967, Bob Dylan writes and records "All Along the Watchtower". It's a hit. In 1968, Jimmy Hendrix licenses the song and records his own unique version, also hit. Now lets say Nickleback (just to pick a hated band) licenses the song this year, but instead of recording their own cover version, they re-release Hendrix's version as their own. That's obviously an infringement, not of Dylan (since they licensed the song from him and he holds the copyright on the composition) but of Hendrix (who has a copyright on the recording of his performance). Derivative works create a new copyright in addition to the original (recording of a song, film adaptation of a novel, translation of a play, etc). The fact that both are licensed from the same original source material doesn't mean they can't violate each others copyright. Anything unique to one adaption (like changing Dorthy's slippers from silver to ruby in the MGM version of Wizard of Oz, or the choice of apostrophes in Genius' lyric transcription) are owned by the adapter. You can dance around it all you want; the fact is, Google took someone else work and passed it off as their own. That is plagiarism at the very least.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 10:17am

      Re: Here's a thought experiment

      Except nobody except the artist and their publishing studio owns the rights to the song lyrics and there is no law that says it's copyright violation/infringement to post said lyrics on the internet for people who can't make them out in the song.

      You can dance around it all you want; the fact is, Google took someone else work and passed it off as their own.

      Then you didn't read the article.

      As stated in the article, Google DIDN'T get the lyrics from Genius and they DIDN'T try to pass it off as their own. They got it from LyricFind through their contract/licensing agreement and properly attributed the lyrics to the artist who wrote/recorded the song. That means that if Google displayed Genius' "copyrighted" lyrics, it wasn't Google's fault, it was LyricFind's fault for giving them to Google in the first place. Because, once again, Google didn't go out and get them from Genius.

      And also as noted, there is no copyright protection for Genius because they are just re-posting the exact same lyrics from someone else who holds the copyright. Not to mention that the apostrophe changes are unnoticeable by 99.9999999999999% of the people who would be looking at them.

      The other problem with your analogy is that covering a song, or remixing it, is not the same as reproducing text. Every artist that covers or remixes a song is going to perform it a little differently. The lyrics are just text. There is no way to change the text and have it still be the same song. Different styles of apostrophes are just a formatting difference and could come down to what text editor they happened to use. The fact that Genius creatively used them as a type of DRM doesn't change the fact that they have ZERO right to a copyright claim on someone else copying and pasting them. I could copy their lyrics database, remove all the apostrophes and they would never know I copied all their lyrics database because it would look exactly the same as everyone else posting song lyrics.

      And all of this is completely moot because as I stated above THERE IS NO LAW OR RULE THAT SAYS YOU CAN'T MAKE A DATABASE OF USER GENERATED SONG LYRICS AND PUT IT ON THE INTERNET.

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    • identicon
      TFG, 18 Jun 2019 @ 10:26am

      Re: Here's a thought experiment

      Context matters.

      Dylan created a song. He wrote the lyrics and performed the song. Hendrix licensed the song and created his own cover, and Hendrix's addition is not the lyrics but rather his unique performance.

      In this case, we're only dealing with the lyrics. This is not a performative work. This is just a reporting of what the lyrics are of a song written by someone else.

      For accuracy, try the following:

      Dylan writes the song. Hendrix covers it. For neither version is an official lyrics page available.

      Somebody on the internet puts up the lyrics they think are correct. A whole bunch of people do, each, supposedly, licensing the ability to display lyrics. One guy adds commentary, and changes the way apostrophes are displayed. We'll call him Genie.

      What's the actual new stuff here? Note that Hendrix, when he covered the song, added his performative spin. His playing of the instrument, his method of singing, his voice, etc. He didn't change the lyrics. The lyrics are still all Dylan. He added his performance to the lyrics.

      In our case, Genie has added commentary, and has changed the apostrophe format. The only actual new content is the commentary.

      Now, if some other person who has licensed the lyrics comes along and grabs the lyrics from Genie's page, but leaves the commentary alone ... well, they've not actually taken anything that Genie owned. The lyrics aren't his. The apostrophe reformat isn't transformative. He didn't create anything that was copied.

      To fit the analogy you provided, Google would have needed to also take all the commentary listed on Genius and present it as their own.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2019 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re: Here's a thought experiment

        It's like complaining about popular historical or literary quotes if one didn't find the true original source to read (or listen to) before quoting them. (Never mind this would be hilariously impossible much of the time.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 11:11am

      Re: Here's a thought experiment

      “Google took someone else work and passed it off as their own.“

      According to which part of the article? All I see is Google paying for a licence then returning it according to search queries

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Federico (profile), 18 Jun 2019 @ 11:05am

    Genius own copyright violations

    Screenscraping and reproducing lyrics from Genius might be a violation of sui generis database right in EU but it's hard to see how Genius can claim any copyright for themselves on such a collection. (I hope they're not claiming that punctuation and other minimal editing generates a new copyright.)

    More importantly, however, Genius itself is a serial copyright violator: their pages are full of descriptions copied verbatim from English Wikipedia articles without mentioning the source nor the CC-BY-SA license, let alone the authors, and no link whatsoever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2019 @ 12:05am

      Re: Genius own copyright violations

      I hope they're not claiming that punctuation and other minimal editing generates a new copyright.

      You'd be surprised. The hilarity about copyright law is that it gets applied to anything and everything. "Sweat of the brow", even minimal effort, is not too low a standard for copyright enforcers and advocates to dive.

      Genius itself is a serial copyright violator

      This is usually the case for anyone screaming "copyright!", partially due to how easy it is to infringe on even trace elements of someone else's work - but more egregiously is how often the RIAA et al just happen to use a photographer's image for their "IP law is teh shizzle fo' nizzle" materials without proper attribution or payment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2019 @ 4:27am

    I'm guessing that they're claiming infringement of their derivative work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Charles Thorn, 19 Jun 2019 @ 8:16am

    Does artwork make a difference?

    Someone help me think through this, please.

    Suppose I am an artist and I want to paint a portrait of an urban wall covered in graffiti. I acquire all of the licenses and permission from the original arrist who drew the graffiti, and then paint my own picture. Am I correct in assuming that I have copyright to my painting, which gives me the right to restrict who else may make a copy of my painting?

    If I am correct, doesn't Genius have a cooyright to the particular “display” of the lyrics they have posted? Looking at the comparative examples given of the lyrics from the Google site and the Genius site they seem to use the same face type, spacing, font size, and even the same apostrophe style.

    It seems to me that any copyright infringement is not of the lyrics, but of the “display” of the lyrics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2019 @ 1:56am

    "...telephone company that inserted fictitious residents and phone numbers into its phone books...
    However, as the Supreme Court noted, there was no copyright interest in phone numbers, which were factual information. This was the case that explicitly rejected the "sweat of the brow" theory of copyright, saying that you only get copyright in new creative works."

    Made up Ph. #'s are factual information? It is a fact that I can't ever get someone to complain to about lousy drivers @ 1-800-eat-shit

    Residents. Whether they are referring to peoples names they created or new streets they created, seems a shame they didn't get copyright on their new creations

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2019 @ 1:58am

    Residents. Whether they are referring to fictitious peoples names they created or fictitious new streets they created, seems a shame they didn't get copyright on their new creations

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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