Business News Digital Grooveshark Timeline Labels & Publishers Legal Top Stories

EMI sues Grooveshark… again

By | Published on Friday 7 September 2012


Grooveshark has been sued by EMI for a third time. The new litigation, filed with the courts last week, in part hones in on the fact that the controversial US-based streaming service is still distributing EMI-owned recordings, despite the major terminating its licensing agreement with the digital firm in late March.

As previously reported, EMI was the first major label to sue Grooveshark which, although akin to Spotify et al, allows users to upload content to its servers, meaning its catalogues always contain large quantities of unlicensed content. Grooveshark claims that it operates a takedown system under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and therefore is not liable for infringement when its users upload unlicensed tracks to its system.

The majors do not agree, and in 2009 EMI sued. However, it eventually reached a settlement with the digital outfit and licensed its music to Grooveshark meaning that, while the other majors got increasingly angry with the streaming service, EMI was in business with it. Until January this year, when it sued Grooveshark owner Escape Media Group for breach of contract in relation to that 2009 deal. The major terminated Grooveshark’s licensing agreement a couple of months later.

The new lawsuit goes over some old ground, as well as accusing Grooveshark of infringement for allowing EMI-owned content to continue to be distributed via its platform. Of course Escape Media will presumably wheel out the customary ‘takedown system / DMCA / no infringement’ argument, though EMI seem ready to argue that its 2009 agreement included a clause that means that defence cannot be used. Whether that argument would stand up in court, remains to be seen.

As also previously reported, the other three majors – Universal, Sony and Warner – are all also suing Grooveshark, though – nervous the digital firm’s DMCA arguments might actually prevail in court (even though the labels morally disagree with them) – they are accusing staff at the digital firm of also uploading unlicensed tracks to the streaming service, which, if true, would constitute straightforward infringement with no DMCA-based get out clauses.

Responding to its latest major label lawsuit, Grooveshark said in a statement: “While we always strive to keep lines of communication open with rights holders, artists and all other interested parties, disagreements inevitably arise, as is true in any business, particularly one that is pushing for innovation and industry change. We remain confident that we will be able to resolve our dispute with EMI”.

Elsewhere in Grooveshark news, following its latest ban from Google Play, after a grand total of three days back on the Android app store, Grooveshark has started pushing its HTML5 web app again. Actually, Grooveshark seems to be promoting the app as if it’s brand new, even though the company first launched it in January and spruced it up with new functionality in May.

As ever, the web app means that Grooveshark can offer its service via mobile devices without having to have its service approved by the Apple or Google app stores.

Grooveshark boss Sam Tarantino told Mashable: “With Apple and Android blocking us from app stores, we really had no options until this HTML5 release. The only way to block the HTML5 Grooveshark is if the internet goes down … Grooveshark for mobile users will be initially free. We want to show mobile users what can be done with a web browser. As we grow on the tablet and mobile device ecosystem, at that point we will look at a premium model”.

On the company’s recent short-lived return to Google’s app store, Tarantino added: “We submitted [a request], we got in and then they kicked us out again. It’s a bit of a challenge. I’m not quite sure what policies we are violating since we model ourselves on [Google-owned] YouTube”.