1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

DIY Grooveshark cannot claim DMCA 'safe habor'

A federal judge in New York has ruled that Grooveshark, the controversial online music service, has infringed on thousands of their copyrights. Grooveshark came under fierce attack from the recording industry for hosting music files without permission. Grooveshark (Escape Media Group) streams music uploaded by its users and Grooveshark’s defence has long been that it is legal under the 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 its own employees and officers — including Samuel Tarantino, the chief executive, and Joshua Greenberg, the chief technology officer — 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, while 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.

We previously reported that four former and one then employee of Grooveshark had previously signed consent orders with the plaintiffs agreeing i that they would never again infringe the labels' copyrights, or work for a company that "systematically infringes" copyrights.  Those individuals who had been targeted for infringement were then removed from the the ongoing lawsuit. 

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