17
Jun/19

The Tell-Tale Apostrophe


Bizarre story. Genius (formerly Rap Genius) provides lyrics and facts about songs, under license from music publishers. After Google partnered with LyricFind to publish lyrics, search traffic to Genius’s versions of lyrics plummeted. According to the WSJ:

Genius first became suspicious about the source of Google’s lyrics in 2016, when a Genius software engineer spotted something odd about the song “Panda,” a hit by rapper Desiigner. While many lyrics sites had published error-ridden transcriptions of Desiigner’s hard-to-understand lyrics, Genius had the definitive version because Desiigner himself provided his lyrics to the site, Genius said .

So Genius created an Easter egg. It alternated use of straight and slanted apostrophes in a pattern to spell out ‘red-handed’ in Morse code (Sic – see box above). The WSJ confirmed that certain of Google’s lyrics contained the ‘watermarks’ created by Genius.

As to whether Genius could bring an action – well, certain printed reports are a little over-confident that Genius cannot bring a copyright action because it is not the owner of the copyrights in the lyrics in question. True – but one can’t conclude anything without seeing the agreements between Genius and the publishers. It might be the owner of one of the exclusive rights in the copyrights enumerated in Section 106 of the Copyright Act.

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