Business News Digital Grooveshark Timeline Legal

Google adds Grooveshark to autocomplete blacklist

By | Published on Wednesday 24 July 2013


Google has seemingly added Grooveshark to its autocomplete blacklist, meaning that the search engine won’t suggest to a user that they might be looking for pages on the controversial streaming website when searching for music content.

Blacklisting the names of piracy enablers in this way has been one of a number of initiatives lobbied for by the music and movie industries in recent years, who see companies like Google as having an important role to play in steering web-users away from unlicensed content.

Google, of course, has in the main been a reluctant partner in the anti-piracy domain, though has embraced some of the content industry’s proposals, partly in response to pressure from the political community, partly to placate the labels and movie studios whose participation is required for the development of services like Google Play.

While the web giant has resisted calls to blacklist entire sites from its search engine (meaning that rights owners have to report every bit of copyright infringing content posted on or linked to by an infringing website), it has removed various domains that exist primarily to distribute unlicensed content from its autocorrect suggestions, so that Google will search for and find the site if asked to do so, but won’t recommend it as the user types.

Google is vague about the criteria it uses for deciding what sites should go on the autocorrect blacklist. How many times legitimate takedown requests are submitted against a site is part of the consideration, but other matters are seemingly involved too. New sites are added to the blacklist every so often and, according to Torrentfreak, Grooveshark was actually added in late April, but Google doesn’t announce these additions and people have only just noticed.

Grooveshark’s inclusion is interesting, because most sites blacklisted are pretty clearly liable for copyright infringement, and some will have lost copyright actions in court. But Grooveshark maintains that it is protected from copyright claims by America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

And while the big music and movie companies argue that the streaming service – which allows users to upload any music content to its libraries, but only has licences from some indies – exploits the safe harbour clauses in the DMCA, if a straight forward infringement lawsuit went before a US court tomorrow there is a very high chance Grooveshark would win.

Which is why Universal Music et al have utilised technicalities in their litigation against the firm (by claiming their pre-1972 catalogues, protected by state rather than federal law, are not subject to the safe harbours, or that staff at the firm also infringed, the safe harbours only applying when users upload content without the rights owner’s permission).

Though, of course, it’s not the first time big web firms have been persuaded to downgrade Grooveshark based on concerns expressed by big copyright owners, with both Apple and Google’s app stores refusing to approve the streaming company’s smartphone tools.