Published by LawTechie - December 15, 2011 - LawTechie

Copyright infringementUniversal Music Group sued Grooveshark last month in the Southern District of New York alleging that the music search engine and streaming service engages in willful copyright infringement. This week, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are reported to be preparing to file their own copyright infringement lawsuit.

Background:

Grooveshark, whose parent company is the Escape Media Group of Gainesville, Fla., lets users upload songs that other listeners can stream. Its popularity has drawn major advertisers, including Mercedes-Benz.

Grooveshark has said that its music service is legal under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the federal law that gives “safe harbor” to companies that host third-party material on the Internet if they comply with takedown notices from copyright holders.

This case of alleged copyright infringement is reminiscent of the recent Viacom v. YouTube ruling, also in the Southern District of New York, where the court held that YouTube was protected by the DMCA safeguards despite YouTube’s knowledge of copyright infringement because (1) YouTube could not be expected to know which uploads were licensed and which were not (“as the infringing works in suit may be a small fraction of millions of works posted by others on the service’s platform…”), and, maybe more importantly, (2) YouTube had a very robust system in place for adhering to DMCA notice-takedown provisions. Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., No. 07 Civ. 2103 (SDNY, June 23, 2010).

Of course YouTube is used as often to share users’ original videos as it is, perhaps, used to share infringing videos. Is Grooveshark known for the same, or will the court find that there is no question that the vast majority of music on Grooveshark is unlicensed?

In its recent suit, Universal accused Grooveshark’s executives of uploading thousands of songs themselves, which would violate the law. That suit also cited e-mails from Grooveshark executives that appeared to boast of “achieving all this growth without paying a dime to any of the labels.”

Not good.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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