The only good use for Smart Quotes, ever

Trap Quote Steganography:

Genius says its traffic is dropping because, for the past several years, Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform, with some of them lifted directly from the music 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 Handed."

So that's clever and funny, and Google are anticompetitive dicks, but there are no winners here. Genius is straight up admitting that the thing that drives people to their site is just the lyrics, not the annotations that they provide. Google isn't cloning their annotations.

Here's the music mafia trying to quadruple-dip what they've already sold you three times by monetizing the lyrics of the songs you already bought. When you buy an MP3, it has the album artwork embedded in the ID3 tags (almost always, these days), and the lyrics should be there, too. Are they not a part of the song? Are they not the very meta-est of metadata? Yes. Yes they are.

It's as if you bought a BluRay and they told you, "Oh, the subtitle tracks are on a different disc, and that's sold by a completely different wholly-owned subsidiary". Or you bought an album and got files numbered 1 through 14, because the titles of those songs are available under a different licensing regime as a separate add-on subscription service.

If you want to see the lyrics to your music, might I recommend jwzlyrics.

Though I will note that, the site I get my data from, seems to be slacking. They only seem to have lyrics for about half of the new music I buy these days. And I believe they actually pay the mob for their lyrics feed, or they used to.

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21 Responses:

  1. Merc says:

    Not to mention how the music bizz also claims to own guitar/bass tabs even if they're "reverse engineered" by listening to the song and transcribing them. Copyright in the US is a disaster, and if Trump's USMCA passes, Canada and Mexico get infected as well.

  2. For what it's worth, I have personally gone to genius specifically because I want to know what someone to explain all the biblical and literature references in the lyrics that I do not get at all. Mostly for Mountain Goats songs.

    It is true that the fan wiki is better anyway.

    • Mark Crane says:

      Mountain Goats fans are not to be underestimated in their devotion. A lot of the annotations at Genius are moronic.

      • Rich says:

        I cannot disagree. I made an edit there on a song based on personal involvement with the author and it was not accepted and "obviously" my correction was "wrong" because this other site that's been wrong for decades quotes lyrics that disagree with me. And the lyricist himself. You just can't fucking win sometimes.

  3. hellpé says:

    *"Though I will note that, the site I get my data from, seems to be slacking."*

    It's actually closed for editing

    • jwz says:

      Wow, and for the usual reason: "Because Nazis".

      • Zygo says:

        Because...Nazis keep spamming the site with wiki spambots, or because the music industry keeps publishing pop songs that have pro-Nazi lyrics?

  4. Zygo says:

    Or you bought an album and got files numbered 1 through 14, because the titles of those songs are available under a different licensing regime as a separate add-on subscription service.

    Fun fact: if you have this service in your car, chances are good that it cost the manufacturer more than they spent on the software running the brakes or engine.

    • Rich says:

      * confused *

      The software running the brakes and engine in my car is the sole of my right shoe.

      What were we talking about again? Oh, cassette tapes?

      • Ham Monger says:

        My car is drive by wire, and it's 20 years old. Honda may have been an early adopter of drive by wire, but the ECU in almost every car with OBD is a bit more sophisticated than your shoe.

        • Rich says:

          Advice please: do you prefer "ricesplaining" or just plain old "presumptuous douche"?

          (Did you get nothing from my cassette comment?)

          • Ham Monger says:

            Ricesplaining has a nice ring to it, thanks for asking!

            (I could as easily, and with as much relevance, ask if you got nothing from my handle.)

  5. different Jamie says:

    The lyric-launderers remind me of the companies that pretend to crack ransomware but instead just broker the payoff, serving as a reputational-cutout.

    It's third-rate burglars all the way down.

    • Rich says:

      Oh yes, and

      as for the “scans with watermarks” or “no scans”, I would choose no scans, since damaged goods are often accepted by people in a general sense, obviating energy spent to do scans down the road.

      …this being the same logic I place behind my support for a minimum wage above the poverty line, and unions: you pay nothing, you get nothing.

  6. Jonny says:

    I'm not sure how I feel on this one. My flinch response would be to think that it isn't cool to rip off the work of others. But when I think a little harder on it, I'm not sure I care if someone is "stealing" public information.

    It's song lyrics that any can listen to and write down. Does it matter if one company copies public data about public songs hosted on a public site? Is it suddenly okay for Google to do this if they pay someone slightly above minimum wage to research song lyrics by Googling them and writing down what they find? Is the only "legitimate" way to get song lyrics is by listen to them and write them down?

    I think that the problem is that Genius doesn't have a very secure business. They are trying to repackage public information, which is a business that anyone can get in on. They have a small value added piece that are the interpretations of the music, but Google isn't copying that. Trying to make money by repackaging public information is fine, but I'm not sure there is any ground to stand on to complain when someone repackages your public information.

    If Google was taking the interpretations of the lyrics and repackaging it as their own, I think they would have a leg to stand on. Google is using Genius as a source of lyrics to songs anyone can listen to isn't any more upsetting than Genius using whoever they used as a source for their lyrics.

    More than all of this though, I think I actually don't give a shit if anyone makes money off of song lyrics. It seems like song lyrics are the sort of problem that the internet can solve without any public corporations at all. I don't think anyone's business model needs to be protected. Let the cheapest person win. If the cheapest person is free, great. This seems like the sort of problem best solved with a Wikipedia like model.

  7. TreeSpeaker says:

    Love the method of watermarking, similar to Mountweazel copyright traps used to catch cartographic shenanigans.

    There is some plot thickening this morning. Getting my Orville Redenbacher ready to see how this turns out.

    • jwz says:

      Google throws subcontractor under bus, who says it was probably our subcontractor's subcontractor. Anyone here who didn't see this coming?

      And as always, zero discussion about why the meta-est of metadata has a separate price tag on it.

  8. gcb says:

    > It's as if you bought a BluRay and they told you, "Oh, the subtitle tracks are on a different disc, and that's sold by a completely different wholly-owned subsidiary".

    You should pick a better example. Maybe a car analogy?

    This is exactly what happens! even on netflix. Depending on the country you bought/streamed the media, you will get one set of subtitles/dubbed languages. If you want the other set, good luck buying from a completely different wholly-owned subsidiaries' streaming/blueray!

    • jwz says:

      In this, the Stupidest Timeline, it's hard to pick an analogy so egregious that it isn't already somebody's business model.

      • Nick Lamb says:

        Interestingly in the UK (and maybe the whole EU?) the copyright law was modified so that if disabled people need something (e.g. subtitles that say "distant rumbling sound" when Indie looks nervous before the giant boulder appears, for the deaf) then either you have to sell the product that does that OR you have to accept that third parties outside your control will buy your product, fix it for the disabled people, then re-sell that covering their costs.

        So you can't stop the volunteers except by making it yourself. For popular stuff like Indiana Jones obviously Hollywood is just going to throw in those subtitles, but it ensures you don't get cut off because you had some defect too rate for Hollywood to care about or you don't like stuff that's mainstream enough to come with all the expensive adaptation done.

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