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Grooveshark employees taken off major label lawsuit

By | Published on Monday 20 May 2013


In an interesting turn of events, a number of former employees of often controversial streaming music service Grooveshark have signed agreements with the major music companies vowing to never infringe said firms’ copyrights again, or to work for a company that “systematically infringes”. A current employee of the digital business has also signed one of the ‘consent judgement’ agreements.

As much previously reported, the major record companies have a major beef with Grooveshark, which lets users upload music into its libraries, meaning tracks are routinely available on the streaming service without the permission of relevant copyright owners. Because Grooveshark has a takedown system, removing copyright material if made aware of it, the company says it is operating within US law, even if taken-down tracks are soon replaced by users.

While the labels consider that an abuse of the ‘takedown system’ safe harbours in US copyright law, there’s a high chance that the Groovesharkers would win if that dispute ever went to court. Therefore the music firms have looked for other ways to litigate, including following up allegations employees of Grooveshark uploaded unlicensed music to the firm’s servers. That activity, denied by Grooveshark bosses, wouldn’t be protected by the safe harbours.

It is in relation to that litigation that the new agreements have been signed. By making a commitment to never again infringe, individual Groovesharkers who had been targeted for infringement will now be removed from the lawsuit. Though the company itself and, seemingly, its founders, remain as defendants listed on the legal action, which was originally launched by Universal Music and is now also backed by the other majors.

What all that means for the progress of the wider litigation isn’t clear. Possibly nothing, just that the number of defendants on the case will be considerably fewer. Whether the agreements will allow former Grooveshark employees to testify against the company if and when the legal squabble gets to court remains to be seen.

For their part, Grooveshark owners Escape Media welcomed the development, telling reporters: “We are pleased that the case between Universal Music and Escape Media has been narrowed and simplified by the removal of some individual defendants from the case upon their stipulation to simply obey the law – something Escape Media does every day through its active licensing of millions of tracks and its strict compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Escape Media Group will continue to deliver innovative new solutions and services that revolutionise music consumption for its growing audience of 30 million plus fans around the world”.