Google Defends How It Sources Song Lyrics: 'We Do Not Crawl or Scrape Websites'

Chesnot/Getty Images
The Google logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on March 20, 2019 in Paris.

Faced with accusations that it copied song lyrics from Genius, the search engine is offering an explanation.

When users search for song lyrics online, where do the results come from? That question sparked conflict earlier this week, when lyrics website Genius Media accused Google of displaying lyrics copied from their site above search results.

Google quickly issued a statement denying the alleged misuse, which Genius complains is discouraging users from visiting its site. Tuesday (June 18), Google went one step further, clarifying how lyrics end up on the search engine through a detailed blog post.

"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," Google Search group product manager Satyajeet Salgar explains. "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."

In the post, Salgar notes that the lyric boxes at issue are really just meant to make users' lives easier. He also reiterates that Google pays music publishers for the right to display lyrics, ensuring that the songwriters are paid for their work.

Even so, sometimes music publishers don't have digital copies of the lyrics text to offer -- in which case Google licenses the text from third parties like LyricFind.

"We do not crawl or scrape websites to source these lyrics," Salgar writes. "The lyrics that you see in information boxes on Search come directly from lyrics content providers, and they are updated automatically as we receive new lyrics and corrections on a regular basis."

In addition to asking lyric partners to investigate the complaint, Google promises that its lyric boxes will soon include attribution to the third party providing digital lyrics text. For its part, LyricFind has denied that it knowingly lifted lyrics from Genius, also pointing out in a statement that the roughly 100 lyrics at issue are merely a fraction of the nearly 1.5 million lyrics in its database.

Adds Salgar: "We will continue to take an approach that respects and compensates rights-holders, and ensures that music publishers and songwriters are paid for their work."


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.