Grooveshark Falls to Record Label Giants in Copyright Infringement Case

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014

Grooveshark became yet another file sharing website to face defeat against the recording industry for copyright infringement. It came shortly after Sirius XM Radio, Inc. lost to a 1960s band for its infringement of its music. (Read the full opinion here)

Grooveshark (the court referred to by its parent company, Escape Media Group) is an online music service that allows users to stream music directly from its site. Although Grooveshark has licenses for some of its music, it doesn’t for all of its content, which is primarily obtained from the personal libraries belonging to users of the website.

In its early stages Grooveshark used, and strongly encouraged its employees to upload their personal music libraries. The site’s strategy was quite simple; grow as quickly as possible believing this would make it easier to negotiate license agreements with the owners of the records. Essentially, Grooveshark believed it was “easier to ask forgiveness than [ ] to ask permission” from the plaintiffs to use their content.

Plaintiffs, which included some of the largest record labels in the country, argued that such activity infringed on their copyrights by reproducing, distributing, and publicly performing their property without permission under 17 U.S.C. §106(1), §106(3), and §106(4).

Grooveshark claimed its activities were protected under the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because it hosts third-party content. The DMCA allows websites to host such content provided they comply with take-down notices from the copyright owner. However, the site lost on a summary judgment motion because Grooveshark’s employees, including some of its executives, uploaded nearly 150,000 of their own songs to the site without permission from any of the record companies.

Besides the illegal uploads, the court also ruled that the site publicly performed (via streaming) copies of plaintiffs’ copyrighted songs at least 36 million times, explaining that “[e]ach time [Grooveshark] streamed one of plaintiffs’ song recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights.

Grooveshark says it plans to appeal this decision, but for now it remains another online music service to take a hit from the music industry.