Grooveshark plans appeal

November 2014

Internet, recorded music


In September 2014 a federal judge in New York ruled that Grooveshark, the controversial online music service, had infringed on thousands of their copyrights. Grooveshark (Escape Media Group) streams music uploaded by its users and Grooveshark’s defence has long been that this is legal under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the federal law that protects websites that host third-party material if they comply with takedown notices from copyright holders. The company relies on advertising for its revenues. Granting summary judgment in a case filed in 2011 by the three major record companies, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled that Grooveshark was liable for copyright infringement because it was it’s own employees and officers — including Samuel Tarantino, the chief executive, and Joshua Greenberg, the chief technology officer — who uploaded a total of 5,977 of the labels’ songs without permission. Those uploads are not subject to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act –  with the judge saying “Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’ songs recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights”.  According to Reuters, evidence against the executives included a 2007 memo in which they asked staff to upload as much music as they could when outside the office, to help the service grow in its early days. “By overtly instructing its employees to upload as many files as possible to Grooveshark as a condition of their employment, Escape engaged in purposeful conduct with a manifest intent to foster copyright infringement via the Grooveshark service,” the judge said. The judge also found that the company destroyed important evidence in the case, including lists of files that Mr. Greenberg and others uploaded to the service. The New York Times reports that the next step of the case will be to set damages although Grooveshark said it is currently assessing its next steps, including the possibility of an appeal.” Grooveshark is also still facing two other copyright suits filed by the music industry, one in New York federal court and one in state court, also in New York.

Now Grooveshark have said an appeal will be filed. In a statement published by The Next Web they said:

“Grooveshark cannot comment on our current litigation but I can say we are preparing for the appeal process. We can say that we will continue to operate our business ethically and honestly – with first-to-market technology as we have done since 2006. I can also say Grooveshark’s current service has provided millions of dollars in revenue to artists and labels globally.

This decision dealt specifically with an early iteration of Grooveshark which we discontinued in 2008 in favor of our current music streaming service. In turn, we respectfully disagree with the decision, and we are assessing next steps, which will all focus on remaining extremely committed to ensuring we respect artist and songwriter copyrights.

Prior to 2008, the service was a paid music download platform that functioned like a ‘Buy-Sell-Trade’ store, in which users paid for individual tracks. This is very different from the model of our current popular music streaming service, modelled off of YouTube, in which users play songs directly through a browser without the capability of downloads.

We always knew that our service could serve as a powerful tool for labels to build engaged fan evangelism for artists. We prove this daily when we promote and socialise exclusive content to our global audience of nearly 30 million listeners. We want to support musicians just as we do our broadcasters and international partners. Grooveshark was built with the goal of connecting artists and rabid fans.

Our immediate plan of action will be to continue to serve our nearly 30 million listeners with exclusive music, brand promotions, new technology and new device partners – all exclusively for Grooveshark users – which again has been our core edict from day one”.

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