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Grooveshark Settles and Wipes its Servers of Labels' Music

After several years of litigation, music streaming service Grooveshark will settle with major music labels rather than face hundreds of millions of dollars in statutory damages at trial. The service has agreed to wipe its servers of the record companies' music, and surrender ownership of its web site, apps, and intellectual property.

Perhaps due to its unapologetic stance from day one, Grooveshark was unable to transition into a successful, legitimate service. When Universal Music Group sued Grooveshark for copyright infringement four years ago, UMG presented emails from Grooveshark's executives ordering employees to illegally upload songs.

Grooveshark's defense? They argued the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor protected them from infringing activities of their users. The safe harbor provisions allow service providers to escape liability for infringing material uploaded to the service by third parties as long as they are not aware that the infringement exists and remove infringing content once notified. But since Grooveshark employees had uploaded nearly 6,000 infringing tracks and streamed them 36 million times, Grooveshark and its staffers could not claim that they were unaware of that infringing content.

Although Grooveshark and Youtube offered similar services, while the court found that YouTube qualified for safe harbor protection under the DMCA, Grooveshark did not. In contrast to YouTube, Grooveshark staffers uploaded infringing materials, failed to terminate repeat infringers, and actively prevented copyright holders from acquiring information necessary for their take-down requests. These actions made them ineligible to qualify for protection under the safe harbor.So, how can a service provider be shielded by the DMCA's safe harbor? Basically, it must not have awareness of any specific infringements, and it must promptly remove infringing content when notified. There is, however, no duty to affirmatively police infringing activity. In the case against YouTube, the court explained that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is on the copyright owner, so the burden of proof was on Viacom (and content owners) rather than YouTube to monitor for infringing activity.

To discuss whether the DCMA protects your alleged copyright infringement, contact the experienced Orange County copyright lawyers at MYBE Law

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