|WEDNESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Lyrics website Genius has sued Google and lyrics aggregator LyricFind in an ongoing dispute over where the search giant gets its lyrics from. As revealed when this dispute first became public back in June, Genius reckons that some sneaky use of apostrophes - and subsequently spaces - proves that Google has been using lyrics from its database without permission... [READ MORE]|
Genius goes legal in lyrics dispute with Google and LyricFind
When you search for a song on the Google search engine it usually displays the lyrics to said song in one of its 'information boxes', as well as linking you off to other websites that also publish lyrics, such as Genius. Google gets the lyrics for its information boxes via various licensing partnerships, including one with the company LyricFind.
Genius says that, for various reasons, it began to suspect that some of the lyrics being displayed by Google had actually come from its database. To confirm its suspicions, it started strategically placing straight and curly apostrophes in certain sets of lyrics so that, if you treated those apostrophes as dots and dashes respectively, they would spell out 'redhanded' in Morse code.
This, the company says, confirmed that Google was indeed displaying lyrics from its database without permission.
In the new lawsuit filed with the New York courts yesterday, Genius says that it first alerted Google to this fact in 2017. Over the following year Google repeatedly said that it was looking into the problem, but never came back with any formal explanation. So, in 2018, Genius stepped up its apostrophes trick to further confirm that Google was definitely tapping its database.
It then wrote again to Google about the problem in April this year. This time the web giant wrote back insisting that it got all of the lyrics that appear in its information boxes from its licensing partners and that it never simply scraped lyric websites like Genius for content. It also asked for further evidence from Genius so that it could further investigate.
That further investigation confirmed that the lyrics Genius reckoned were taken from its database had been provided to Google by LyricFind. Responding to that news, Genius sent LyricFind a cease-and-desist notice. But, the lawsuit says, despite now being aware that lyrics from the Genius database were arriving on the Google site via LyricFind, neither of the two companies "took any steps to cease such conduct".
Then came an article on the dispute in the Wall Street Journal in June. Both Google and LyricFind publicly responded to that article, the former pushing responsibility onto the latter (partly by starting to list the source of its lyrics in its information boxes), and the latter insisting that it was not knowingly lifting lyrics from the Genius website.
In a blog post, LyricFind said that it employed a global content team who compiled the lyrics contained in its database from multiple sources. As an aggregator that directly works with many music publishers, those sources include its music industry partners, so publishers, songwriters and artists.
Given that parts of the music publishing sector are famously slack when it comes to data management, LyricFind's content team also sometimes has to source, enhance or correct lyrics from elsewhere, even when they have licensing deals with the owners of those lyrics. In theory that might have once included checking the crowdsourced lyrics published by Genius.
However, the blog post went on: "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".
So, LyricFind was basically saying that its team did not consult Genius when compiling and cleaning its lyrics, but it did sometimes consult other websites which might, in turn, have lifted lyrics from the Genius database. "LyricFind offered to remove any lyrics Genius felt had originated from them, even though we did not source them from Genius' site", it went on, but "Genius declined to respond to that offer".
Back in the lawsuit, Genius says that - following the WSJ report - all of the lyrics containing its 'redhanded' apostrophe trick disappeared from the Google platform. But did that mean Google and LyricFind had ensured they were no longer accessing lyrics from the Genius database? Or had they just started editing the apostrophes in lyrics before posting them?
To test this out Genius instigated another trick. This time is started strategically placing an alternative kind of space at certain points in certain sets of lyrics. This alternative type of space, the lawsuit explains, is called a "four-per-em space" and "looks identical to a normal space character but can be differentiated via Unicode character readable by a computer".
If you treated the four-per-em spaces as dashes and the regular spaces as dots, this time the trick spelt out 'genius' in morse code. And, low and behold, the lyrics containing the spaces trick spelling our 'genius' started to appear in the Google information boxes.
This time Genius did some maths based on its sample set of space-tweaked lyrics, leading to the bold claim that "Genius estimates that approximately 40% of lyrics for new music displayed in [Google's] information boxes feature lyrics that are being unlawfully misappropriated from Genius's website".
This second round of trickery also checked whether Google was indeed now editing out variable apostrophes having learned about Genius's original trick. To do this Genius employed both tricks in some sets of lyrics. And when those then appeared in Google's information boxes the apostrophes had been fixed but the variable spaces remained.
Elsewhere in the lawsuit, Genius discusses the negative impact Google's information box lyrics have on its own traffic. It uses a new Selena Gomez song as an example.
Lyrics for the song were published on its website before appearing in the Google info box. As soon as the lyrics were available on the Google site directly, traffic coming through to those lyrics on the Genius site slumped. Which is particularly annoying because, it claims, the Gomez lyrics on the Google site contained the 'genius' spacing system, so had been lifted from the Genius database.
That means, if Genius's lawsuit is to be believed, Google and LyricFind continue to source lyrics from the Genius database, and in doing so they are harming the Genius business. But, the big question is, what can Genius do about this legally speaking?
While lyrics are - of course - protected by copyright, those copyrights belong to the songwriter and/or their publisher. Neither Google nor LyricFind nor Genius has any ownership claim to any of these lyrics, whatever apostrophes or spaces might be employed.
Genius, therefore, is suing on the basis that Google and LyricFind pulling lyrics out of its database is a breach of the terms and conditions of its website. To access the lyrics, the logic goes, Google, LyricFind or one of their agents must have accessed the Genius website and, therefore, are bound by its terms and conditions.
Of course, by Google passing the buck to LyricFind, and then LyricFind insisting that its people never go directly to the Genius website and must be inadvertently sourcing the coded lyrics from another source, this argument might not stack up.
If an unknown third party is actually initially nabbing the Genius lyrics, it - not Google nor LyricFind - is arguably subject to the Genius website's terms of service. Though Genius, of course, will seek to argue otherwise.
That said, there are other legal arguments beyond the breach of contract claims in the lawsuit, with Genius also accusing Google and LyricFind of unfair competition and unjust enrichment, citing state law in both California and New York.
Responding to the lawsuit yesterday, LyricFind CEO Darryl Ballantyne told reporters: "We have not had any contact with Genius since June, and in fact, have not even been served with the complaint. [But] from what we're reading online, it is completely frivolous and without merit".
Spinal Tap creators confirm StudioCanal dispute continues, now entering discovery phase
Harry Shearer originally sued Vivendi and StudioCanal back in 2016, accusing the companies of misreporting financial information about the cult film and its spin offs in order to under-pay him royalties due from the franchise. His Spinal Tap co-creators Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner subsequently came on board as co-plaintiffs.
Through a series of mergers and acquisitions back in the day, the two Vivendi companies - StudioCanal and Universal Music - ended up respectively controlling the 'Spinal Tap' movie and soundtrack rights. Although the Universal music firm was mentioned in the original lawsuit against Vivendi and StudioCanal, it was then formally added as a defendant in its own right in 2017 when Shearer et al expanded on their list of allegations.
The lawsuits against both StudioCanal and Universal Music included various claims of misconduct on the part the two Vivendi businesses. But last month the four men announced that they had reached an out of court settlement with the music company.
Having previously been quite scathing of Vivendi and StudioCanal when speaking about this legal dispute, Shearer was much more positive about his dealings with the Universal Music Group. He told reporters: "I must admit, from the moment we first began mediation with them to now, I've been impressed by UMG's respect for creatives and their distinctive desire to seek a prompt and equitable solution to the issues".
That experience of seeking a settlement with Universal in the US contrasts with their dealings with Vivendi and StudioCanal in France. The four men said in a statement yesterday that, "after a year of mediation and informal exchange of information" they "became frustrated by StudioCanal's continued delay and failure to acknowledge the co-creators' rights and their entitlement to past-due profits".
They continued: "StudioCanal's attitude demonstrates a fundamental failure to appreciate the duties expected of a film rights owner. StudioCanal's tactics have only served to harden the creators' determination to prevail".
Confirming that the Vivendi/StudioCanal litigation was ongoing, Shearer et al yesterday announced that the dispute was now entering a pre-trial discovery phase. "This gives the plaintiffs the right to seek full access to StudioCanal's internal books and records going back decades", they explained.
"This", they went on, "allows the four artists to confirm what they have long suspected: that the defendants have, for more than two decades, deliberately shielded their corporate failings and accounting sleight of hand, and withheld accurate information relating to the revenues and profits generated by the film. The French company [also] stood idly by while others made a killing from sales of merchandise inspired by the film and the much-beloved, faux heavy metal band it depicts".
Shearer himself said yesterday: "The past year has felt like being stuck in limbo. We're now back and unleashed, ready to burrow deep into StudioCanal's ledgers to see what commercial secrets and corporate failings they have concealed".
"Their failed motions to dismiss, delay and obfuscate won't help the studio now we are able to dig up what they have been hiding all these years", he went on. "We get to depose key figures, including top executives of StudioCanal and Vivendi, such as [the film division's [EVP International Production And Acquisitions] Mr Ron Halpern".
"They reported that we were entitled to $81, between the four of us, for 35 years of merchandise sales", he concluded. "Even with the limited information we now have, it is clear that StudioCanal shielded millions of dollars in revenues from us and manipulated the accountings in their favour".
Also commenting on the ongoing case, Guest specifically contrasted the attitude of StudioCanal to that of its sister music company.
"In discussions over the recordings UMG 'got it'", he says, "and throughout showed respect for talent, for intellectual property and the creative process. UMG's approach eventually brought about an amiable and equitable solution to our music claims. StudioCanal, however, has been dismissive to the point of contemptuous".
Meanwhile, Reiner again stressed that the four men see their dispute as putting the spotlight on the wider issues creative people face then they go into business with major corporations. Or, perhaps even more importantly, when work they produce for small independents is subsequently acquired by major studios.
"This isn't just about the four of us - it never has been", he told reporters. "The film was made on the thinnest of budgets. And so many creative people worked hard contributing their talents to a film that has stood the test of time. That's why we took on this fight. Not just for us, but for all hardworking artists who should get their fair share from their creative efforts".
We now await to see what happens in the discovery phase and if StudioCanal will follow its sister company in changing its stance in a bid to try to secure an out of court settlement.
Robin Richards to release new EP in doughnut form
"When we were initially asked to respond to Robin's EP in the form of a doughnut, I thought this was a very strange request", says Siop Shop's Iwan Roberts. "Luckily, we're also very strange".
So that's what they went and did. Roberts explains: "In response, we present a coffee and cardamom custard filled doughnut with a caramel glaze. We've taken inspiration from the Estonian desert Kringel which is a sweet yeasted bread, flavoured with cardamom".
"This pairs well with coffi", he adds, that being Welsh for 'coffee'. Not be confused with 'Cofi', the first track on Richards' EP. "'Cofi' is my native tongue's word for a person hailing from Caernarfon", Roberts clarifies.
"We're calling the doughnut Kringel Castel", he adds. "The themes of longing and identity in the record resonated with me strongly. The request ended up not being strange but a poignant one to me personally".
You'll be able to buy the Kringel Castel doughnut from Siop Shop for seven days starting this Friday. You can choose from a standalone doughnut, or get a doughnut and vinyl bundle. If you get there in time for 4pm on Friday, you'll also be able to catch Richards performing in the café. Maybe he'll even sign your doughnut.
Those of you not interested in doughnuts can instead just listen to the aforementioned 'Cofi' here.
Shesaid.so reports initial findings of music industry bias and harassment study
Reports of bias and harassment in music industry workplaces have been collected through an online reporting tool launched by Shesaid.so and InChorus in September.
The incidents most commonly reported took the form of insensitive comments or questions, derogatory language, and offensive jokes or 'banter'. Of all the reports so far submitted, 8% also involved "unwanted physical contact" - this affecting predominantly women aged 26-35, with the unwanted contact usually initiated by a senior male member of staff.
"Our theory is that inappropriate workplace behaviour starts with subtle forms of bias and microaggressions that are deeply ingrained in our behaviour by social and cultural forces", says Shesaid.so founder Andreea Magdalina. "This type of subtlety is often unconscious and unintentional, and yet it has major repercussions on a company's culture, and the industry's social dynamics more widely speaking".
"The music business is already a highly complex ecosystem governed by unwritten rules and tacit assumptions, making it extremely difficult to single out these subtleties and address them efficiently", she says. "Our hope is that the data we collect with InChorus will inch us closer to identifying the industry's biggest social issues and the best tactics to remedy them".
InChorus co-founder Rosie Turner adds: "Through surfacing everyday instances of bias and harassment we are able to build up a detailed picture of what it is actually like to be working within the music industry. This data has previously been missing, limiting our ability to understand the biggest issues and design for effective change".
The project continues to collect data, and you can access the reporting tool here.
The Electric Soft Parade return with first album for six years
"Several years after our mother passed away, I sat down one day and wrote the rough shape of an album", says Alex. "I took on the multiple perspectives of the experience of death and grief - trying to imagine my mother's feelings and how she experienced both her life and her death, as well as how others in the family may have felt and reacted, as well as my own sense of overcoming this grief".
He continues: "My writing having been less than forthcoming in recent years - I have now hit a peak, I hope. I am extremely proud of these pieces of work, both in their honesty and their construction. It is a strange feeling to be a fan of one's work and genuinely satisfied and engaged with it: often in the past, I have felt I have 'got away' with things, or not been able to fully realise my ideas. Not so here".
"Hopefully, this personal vision and interrogation of grief may provide others with a roadmap of sorts to navigate these deep, dark, universal feelings - not in a depressive, maudlin manner, but rather with an honest, reflective, and ameliorating tone", he concludes.
The fifth album overall for the outfit, 'Stages' will arrive on 8 Jan. Listen to the first track from it, 'Roles Reversed', here.
Massive Attack to stage "super-low carbon emissions show" in Liverpool
As with their wider touring data analysis plans, this show is being put together in collaboration with the University Of Manchester's Tyndall Centre For Climate Change Research. It will take place as part of the cultural programme of the Good Business Festival in Liverpool, which aims to engage the "power of business to effect positive change".
The show will act as a pilot for various ideas on how to reach a carbon neutral live business, looking at improvements that can be made to areas including band, crew and equipment transportation, production power, catering options, audience transportation, merchandising and show sponsorship.
"We're looking forward to exploring the social and scientific solutions to the challenges we face in transitioning to a low carbon society", says the band's Robert Del Naja. "This project offers an opportunity to work with new and progressive identities in the planning, energy, technology and transport sectors". It comes, he adds, "after years of participation in large scale music events that have had questionable sponsors on the ticket and, too often, very little enthusiasm for meaningful change".
Director of the Good Business Festival, Claire McColgan, adds: "As both a festival and a city, we are proud to be working with Massive Attack on this unprecedented event. We are committed to supporting bold, positive action and the Liverpool show is a prime example of how change can be driven from leading industry figures, whatever the sector. We're keen to see how these learnings can be applied quickly and widely to all appropriate content moving forward".
Ever acquisitive ticketing and live music firm CTS Eventim has taken a majority stake in Austrian promoter Barracuda Music. "We want to offer artists not only powerful ticketing services, but also international touring opportunities", says the company's CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg. "Strengthening our market position in Austria is therefore an obvious step. Barracuda is one of Europe's most creative concert promoters and ideally complements the portfolio of our Eventim Live promoter network".
Warner Music has appointed Jon Glass as its new Head Of Digital Legal Affairs. "Jon is the kind of person you want on your side of the negotiating table", says the company's General Counsel, Paul Robinson, explaining one of the most basic requirements for the job.
The live music telly show for under fives 'YolanDa's BandJam' will return for a second series on the BBC's CBeebies channel in January, it has been announced. Guests in the new series will include The Lightning Seeds, Maximo Park, Beverly Knight, Flamingods and Feeder. Who says there's no music on TV anymore?
Grimes has released the lyric video for new single 'My Name Is Dark'. She's also been interviewed by Lana Del Rey for Interview magazine.
Travis have released new single 'Kissing In The Wind'. "'Kissing In The Wind' is the first song from our next studio album", says Fran Healy. "We rehearsed the song while on 'The Man Who Tour' last year and it came together really quickly".
Jehnny Beth has released the video for recent single 'I'm The Man'.
Torres has released new single 'Gracious Day'. "My girlfriend was trying to leave me", she says of the inspiration for the song. "I basically wrote this song for her from the valley of the shadow of death, desperate that she might give me another chance - it worked. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge after he wakes up on Christmas morning". Her new album, 'Silver Tongue', is out on 31 Jan.
Peggy Sue have released a cover of 'White Christmas', taken from an upcoming Christmas EP titled 'Surf Xmas', which will be out tomorrow.
UK drill crew OFB have posted the video for 'Once In A While' from their 'Front Street' mixtape.
Lovebites have released new single 'When Destinies Align'. Their new album, 'Electric Pentagram', is out on 31 Jan.
Empara Mi has announced that she will release new mini-album 'Suitcase Full Of Sins' on 21 Feb. From it, this is new single 'WYGD'.
GIGS & TOURS
Michael Bublé has announced UK tour dates for 2020, crossing from the end of July over into the beginning of August. Tickets will go on sale on Friday.
Joan As Police Woman has announced that she will play Union Chapel in London on 16 Jun. Her new album, 'Cover Two', will also be out next year.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
BBC presenter kicks off Christmas tradition of banning Fairytale Of New York
Dyke initially called on all radio stations to ban the track, saying in a tweet: "Radio, let's ban 'Fairytale Of New York' this Christmas! 'You're a slut on junk, you scumbag, cheap lousy faggot' - is this what we want our kids singing in the back of the car? It's an offensive pile of downmarket chav bilge. We can do better!"
All of radio did not comply with his request and not just because he subsequently deleted the tweet. However, Dyke has banned it on his own show. Though, by the time he came to explain to his listeners why, he'd dropped the word 'chav' from his mini rant.
"I hope I'm not going to ruin your Christmas, but I've decided that I am no longer comfortable with playing 'Fairytale Of New York' by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl", he said. "I think Christmas songs should be about excited children, toys, Christmas trees, snowy streets, ski lodges, reindeer, wrapping paper, Santa, family, peace on Earth and love".
If those are his criteria, he's going to have to ban a lot more Christmas songs before the month is out. Nonetheless, he continued: "I just find the Pogues' 'Fairytale Of New York' a nasty, nasty song. I just think that this guy, this toothless drunk, ruining the romantic image of New York city with a song about heroin is not on".
"I don't like the lyrics 'you're bum, you're a punk, you're a slut on junk'", he added. "I think that's absolutely awful. I don't like 'you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot' - I find that offensive, I find that an offensive pile of downmarket bilge".
So he's still on the 'downmarket bilge' thing, even if he has dropped the 'chav'. It does sort of sound like Dyke's main issue with the song is more about the social class of its protagonists than any of its more questionable language. Whatever, he claimed that his banning of the track this Christmas was him "making a stand for the good of the people".
The BBC at large did not join Dyke on his 'Fairytale' mission, however, with a spokesperson for the broadcaster saying in a statement: "This was Alex's decision. There is no ban. We have a strict music policy that we expect to be followed".
This is not the first time the appropriateness of 'Fairytale Of New York' has been called into question. In 2007, the BBC did censor the word 'faggot', although later returned the song to its original form. Various cover versions of the song have also changed the words.
Last year, amid mounting controversy, The Pogues' Shane MacGowan spoke out in defence of his lyrics. The words used were intended to be authentic to the characters and the time in which the story is set, he insisted.
On the use of the word 'faggot' in particular, he said "the word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate".
"Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend", he went on. "She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable. Sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively".
However, he added: "If people don't understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word, but I don't want to get into an argument".
Dyke himself is no stranger to controversy. In 2015, he was suspended by the BBC after saying on air that breastfeeding in public was "unnatural", adding that "it was OK in the Stone Age when we knew no better, when people didn't have their own teeth. But now I just think a public area is not the place for it and fellas don't like it".
Anyway, after listeners complained about his ban of the Christmas classic, Dyke told them: "I'm just trying to make life better for you guys, I really am".