Court Rules against Grooveshark for Music Copyright Infringement

Music streaming service Grooveshark has been found liable for copyright infringement after a four-year court battle. The company is liable to nine record companies including Arista Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Recording, Elektra Entertainment Group, LaFace Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recording, Warner Brothers Records and Zomba Recording.

Grooveshark employees were found liable for uploading approximately 5,977 files for use in their service without obtaining proper permissions. The claims dealt only with direct uploads of labels’ music by employees and officers at Grooveshark, which means the scope of illegal uploads may actually be much larger. In 2007, Grooveshark co-founder Joshua Greenberg forcefully demanded that his employees upload their own mp3s, regardless of where they came from:

“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.”

Grooveshark employees were also accused of knowingly deleting upload evidence. Judge Thomas Griesa of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York said Grooveshark acted with a “culpable state of mind” when they erased user data for uploads. “By overtly instructing its employees to upload as many files as possible to Grooveshark as a condition of their employment, Escape engaged in purposeful conduct with a manifest intent to foster copyright infringement via the Grooveshark service,” Griesa wrote.

The DMCA safe-harbor provisions did not protect Grooveshark because of Grooveshark’s manifest intent to foster the infringement.

The Grooveshark platform has approximately 20 million users, and the company has scored a few successful agreements with publishing companies and labels. But majors like Universal have been attempting a Grooveshark takedown for years.

UMG Recording Inc, et al. v. Escape Media Group Inc., et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-08407 (2014)

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