Saying as how I’m one of the very few people left on the earth who actually buys CD’s, I guess it’s no wonder I have never heard of Grooveshark while they were still in business. For those of you who are familiar with it and subscribed to its services, Grooveshark is no more. They have been shut down!
So apparently, Grooveshark, which came out in 2007, was an online music streaming service that allowed its users to play virtually any song they wanted to hear for free. Imagine having access to just about every song you could think of and the option to play it whenever you felt like it and free of charge. I’m sure people were jumping all over that…and in turn, so were the record companies. All three of the major labels (Universal Music Group, Sony, and Warner Music Group) (the “Majors”) sued Grooveshark for copyright infringement of its music and after years of in legal battle, the New York federal judge determined that Grooveshark could face an astronomical amount in damages for failure to properly obtain licenses from the copyright owners. Escape Media, the parent company for Grooveshark, settled with the Majors in order to avoid all of the possible damages they would face, and dissolution of the company was one of the terms of the settlement agreement; failure of which would have cost them $75 million alone.
Grooveshark owners were willful infringers and encouraged their employees to upload unlicensed content to their servers or else face penalties for obeying the intellectual property laws. The court was presented with a mountain of evidence demonstrating Grooveshark’s practices and policies to obtain the music, upload it and share it through their servers. There were emails from Grooveshark executives directing employees on what exactly they needed to do to “steal” the music and what possible repercussions were for failure to comply. From the sound of it, Grooveshark had no scruples. They were on a mission to make money and get the music out there to the public (or just make money under the guise that they wanted to get the music to the public). They knew exactly what they were doing when they formulated the idea and executed the plan. They probably figured they’d make a ton of money operating this way and that it would be worth the lawsuit if and when it came down to it. I wonder if it was…
True to form, Grooveshark owners publicly admitted their wrongdoings and advised their customers and the public at large to use reputable streaming services that legally license and pay content owners and artists for the use of their music. HA!
I’m thinking there should be stiffer and harsher penalties for defendants like Grooveshark. They built an entire business where its very foundation on how the business model works is to violate copyright laws. I can’t imagine the owners sitting in a lawyer’s office in the early stages of the business, saying “hey, I’ve got this idea for a business which requires me to violate intellectual property laws of virtually every copyright owner in the music industry and the lawyer saying, “where do I sign up?” On second thought, I can. But wait, when is the criminal copyright infringement statute invoked? I’m inclined to believe that this is the case that should put that under-used statute on the map! The nerve and audacity of Grooveshark to blatantly steal the artistic creations of another for its own monetary gain, force lawlessness on its employees, and then pretend to apologize for it after being in a lengthy legal battle where they were clearly fighting relentlessly against the true copyright owners, knowing what they were doing was absolutely wrong the entire time they were doing it. One can’t even begin to quantify how much was lost from all of these copyright owners and artists by the availability of the Grooveshark service for almost ten years. Shutting down the company and agreeing to whatever other private terms of the settlement agreement just doesn’t seem like justice was served.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!