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Report: Universal Music Group Calls for Summary Judgment Against Grooveshark

Four years after Universal Music Group sued Grooveshark for copyright violations concerning its pre-1972 back catalog, the company has moved for a summary judgment against the music streaming service.

Four years after Universal Music Group sued Grooveshark for copyright violations concerning its pre-1972 back catalog, the company has moved for a summary judgment against the music streaming service, Torrentfreak is reporting.

Owned and operated by Escape Media Group Inc., Grooveshark has sought protection from lawsuits such as these (in 2012, it was sued by EMI for the third time following an alleged breach of contract) under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which grants “safe harbor” to streaming services provided they remove copyright-infringing content once notified. The DMCA does not, however, apply to songs recorded prior to Feb. 15, 1972. In a ruling last year, the New York courts agreed with UMG, which alleged that Grooveshark’s pre-1972 catalog benefited from no such “safe harbor” and therefore was liable to litigation. That decision reversed Judge Barbara R. Kapnick’s 2012 ruling in this case that the DMCA did, in fact, apply to those songs (she cited another EMI lawsuit from 2007 against MP3Tunes, which concluded that there was no time limit for the law’s safe harbor provisions).

This time, Grooveshark isn’t going to escape, so to speak, so easily. “Escape [Media Group Inc.] infringed UMG’s copyrighted works billions of times since it launched the current iteration of Grooveshark without any license from UMG and in flagrant violation of UMG’s exclusive rights,” writes UMG in its Sept. 23 submission, according to Torrentfreak.

Adds the New York Law Journal, “There is no dispute that UMG is the owner of the pre-1972 recordings at issue, and that Escape has infringed UMG’s common law copyrights in those recordings by streaming copies of these works… without any authorization or license to do so.”

When asked for comment, a Grooveshark representative told Billboard, “It’s not our policy to comment on pending litigation.” A representative from UMG had not responded with a comment at press time. 

UMG is seeking a summary judgment (a court order ruling that contends the case can be decided without a trial, based on certain allegedly proven facts and legal arguments) based on aforementioned copyright infringement and unfair competition grounds — in their filing, UMG contends that Escape admitted that Grooveshark provides competition by making music available online “without license or payment.”

In 2012, Escape bit back with the counterclaim that Universal negatively influenced third-parties’ relationships with Grooveshark. As Forbes points out, HP terminated a $325,000 advertising campaign with Grooveshark after UMG allegedly threatened to end their own business contract with HP. UMG maintains its tactics were legitimate anti-piracy initiatives.  

This development is the latest in a series that has plagued Grooveshark since its inception, really. In August, Grooveshark’s app was booted from Chromecast just a few weeks following its addition after the RIAA alleged that its service infringed on artists’ copyrights and Google’s Terms of Service. Grooveshark still remains on T-Mobile’s Music Freedom program, which removes data caps to streaming music services, including Songza and Rdio.