Warner and Sony Join Universal's Lawsuit Against Grooveshark
Warner and Sony Join Universal's Lawsuit Against Grooveshark

Music streaming service Grooveshark has reacted strongly to the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by three major labels. In an 18-page motion to dismiss, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Grooveshark's attorneys, Rosenberg & Giger P.C., call the majors' lawsuit "among the least informative and substantive pleadings imaginable."

Escape Media Group, Inc., parent company of Grooveshark, and Grooveshark's managers were sued for copyright infringement by Universal Music Group in November. Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment joined the lawsuit in December; EMI joined in January, although it is not named in the response.

The manner in which Grooveshark builds its catalog of music is at the heart of the lawsuit. The company has negotiated direct licenses with EMI Music Publishing and numerous independent labels and aggregators. But because it allows users 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. Grooveshark must remove infringing content in a timely manner when notified by rights owners. In its motion to dismiss, Grooveshark says it operates "within the bounds" of the DMCA and "scrupulously" complies with DMCA takedown requests. The "vast majority" of files on Grooveshark were uploaded by users and the rest were licensed from rights holders.

But the majors' lawsuit alleges Grooveshark was directly involved in illegal uploading - or seeding - of content it had not licensed. Grooveshark's filing counters that the majors do not offer evidence of such a direct infringement scheme and do not identify the specific works infringed. "Such incomplete and indistinct allegations do not satisfy the threshold pleading requirements necessary to state a claim for copyright," the filing states.

The filing also takes aim at the plaintiff's use of an anonymous comment on a Digital Music News post as the source for the alleged seeding scheme. A screen shot of the post was included in Universal's complaint and the comment was presented as an admission of wrongdoing by a company employee. Grooveshark's complaint calls this an "anonymous hearsay comment."

Reps for Universal, Warner and Sony either had not granted Billboard.biz's requests for comment at press time, or had no comment.