After Universal Music Group called for a summary judgment yesterday (Sept. 29) in their four-years-and-counting lawsuit against Grooveshark, a judge has ruled against the music streaming service, which has been accused of uploading thousands of copyright-infringing songs. And yet, even though the shark has finally been forced to stop swimming against a tide of litigation that’s been bearing down on it since its 2007 launch, it’s not quite dead.
As the New York Times reports, the counts against Grooveshark, owned and operated by Escape Media Group, Inc., are pretty inescapable (as are puns about it). In his decision, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan cited unavoidably damning pieces of evidence, like an internal 2007 email from co-founder Josh Greenberg, via Torrentfreak:
“Please share as much music as possible from outside the office, and leave your computers on whenever you can. This initial content is what will help to get our network started — it’s very important that we all help out! If you have available hard drive space on your computer, I strongly encourage you to fill it with any music you can find. Download as many MP3’s as possible, and add them to the folders you’re sharing on Grooveshark. Some of us are setting up special “seed points” to house tens or even hundreds of thousands of files, but we can’t do this alone… There is no reason why ANYONE in the company should not be able to do this, and I expect everyone to have this done by Monday… IF I DON’T HAVE AN EMAIL FROM YOU IN MY INBOX BY MONDAY, YOU’RE ON MY OFFICIAL SHIT LIST.”
Files also showed that employees were forwarded Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices for illegal content, but after removing the uploaded songs in question, Grooveshark would simply re-upload them. They were also found to have destroyed evidence in the case, such as the list of songs uploaded. What was it that George W. Bush once tried to say? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well… you won’t be fooling me again.” Indeed, Grooveshark may not be getting another chance to.
Escape was charged with infringing copyright across 5,977 songs and streaming copyrighted tracks 36 million times. “Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’ songs recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights,” wrote Judge Griesa. The upshot of the ruling is that these tracks are not protected under the DMCA, which has a “safe harbor” provision protecting streaming services from being sued for hosting infringing content provided they remove it once notified. It’s also what Grooveshark had been using as their defense.
And they are still using it to justify their appeal. “You may have read the news regarding lawsuits from major music labels against Grooveshark,” the company writes on its blog. “This latest news dealt specifically with an early version of Grooveshark which we dispensed of in 2008 in favor of our current music streaming service. As such we will continue to work with all parties to ensure we respect all artist and songwriter copyrights.”
Sharks have survived basically unchanged for millions of years, but this time there might be too much blood in the water.