Universal Music Group Sues Grooveshark: Report

Warner and Sony Join Universal's Lawsuit Against Grooveshark

Warner and Sony Join Universal's Lawsuit Against Grooveshark

Universal Music Group has reportedly filed a lawsuit against music service Grooveshark over alleged copyright violations.

According to a report at CNET, the complaint alleges Grooveshark management has led an effort to upload more than 100,000 songs to the music service and claims to have supporting emails and documents. Universal is reported to be seeking the maximum in damages of $150,000 per infringing act.

A statement provided to Billboard.biz by a Universal Music Group spokesperson claims Grooveshark's senior management and employees "have personally uploaded tens of thousands of recordings to the service in clear violation of the law."

According to CNET, Universal says it has evidence of thousands of songs uploaded being by the company's executives. And the claim points to a Digital Music News post from April in which a commenter claiming to be a Grooveshark employee details how management tasks its employees with uploading songs into its system.

At the heart of the issue is the source of a portion of Grooveshark's catalog. The company has negotiated direct licenses with EMI and numerous independent labels and aggregators. But because it allows user to upload music -- as YouTube allows users to upload video -- Grooveshark also has music owned by Universal Music Group and other companies with which it does not have licensing agreements.

The DMCA protects an online service from the infringing activities of its users in some specific situations. But if a service has any direct knowledge of infringing content on its network, it must remove or disable access to that content before being contacted by the copyright owners. If Grooveshark management led an effort to upload copyrighted material, as the lawsuit alleges, that would certainly be considered direct knowledge.

Universal's statement emphasizes the company's commitment to "supporting legitimate and innovative" digital business models. But it claims "Grooveshark did not build its business legitimately; its business is built on willful infringement."

This is not the first incident between these two companies. In a lawsuit filed last year in New York County Court, Universal claimed Grooveshark violates copyright by providing free access to its pre-1972 recordings.

Grooveshark also faced a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by EMI in 2009. That lawsuit ended with a licensing deal that added EMI's roster to Grooveshark's catalog. Since then, Grooveshark has inked licensing deals with the likes of Merlin, Sun Records, NuGroove Records, Vagrant Records, BFM Digital, Thirty Tigers and DashGo.

Grooveshark did not supply a response to Billboard's request for a comment.