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Old 16-03-12, 19:33   #1
 
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Default Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open and Unlimited

enigmaz 14 March 2012

Popular music streaming service Grooveshark is being sued by all the major recording labels. The lawsuits, which range from contractual disputes right up to copyright infringement, mean that the company will be tied up in litigation for months, even years to come. TorrentFreak recently managed to discuss developments with someone close to Grooveshark who told us that the company will strive to maintain an open and unlimited platform that accommodates the rightsholder.






The past several months will go down in history as a period Grooveshark and parent company Escape Media would rather forget.


In November 2011, Universal Music, the world’s largest recording label, sued the music streaming service in a copyright infringement lawsuit claiming hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. In December, Sony and Warner joined the action and in January this year EMI sued over a contractual dispute.

Just last month a group of entertainment companies in Denmark obtained a court order forcing an ISP to block Grooveshark at the DNS level, a punishment previously inflicted on The Pirate Bay after prolonged legal argument.

So when the recording labels claim that Grooveshark has cost them hundreds of millions of dollars and when headlines refer to the music streaming service in the same breath as The Pirate Bay, are those statements and associations fair?

According to a source close to Grooveshark who spoke to TorrentFreak under condition of anonymity, the differences are not only palpable but the accusations made by some in the recording industry are just plain false.

Our source insists that Grooveshark has aggressively pursued licenses across the globe, gone directly to artists and has built (and continues to build) systems to help rights holders manage their content and receive revenue shares. But sometimes Grooveshark’s ideals run counter to the labels’ preferred route to the market.

“Grooveshark wants to keep the platform Open. That is to say, even after all the deals are inked, the company wants artists to be able to share without having to go through a label. That’s Grooveshark’s definition of open,” TorrentFreak was told.

Another perceived area of conflict is that Grooveshark want to keep their platform and musical offering unlimited.

“That doesn’t mean that users don’t have to pay and it certainly doesn’t mean that record labels don’t get paid, but users might pay with their attention or their interaction, or (and I know this is controversial) with their data,” our source explained.



Grooveshark’s 35 million users are a rich source of information which the company believes could be of immense value to the record labels. A comment from a company exec quoted in the Universal lawsuit suggested that in some instances that value could cover the costs of music licensing. In some instances and in a practical sense, information may be the only currency users have to trade for music.
“If a 13-year old kid can’t get access to music because she or he doesn’t have a credit card and Grooveshark can earn enough money to pay a record label off of a few survey questions then that should be net positive for the label, the artist, the user and Grooveshark,” our source noted. “The alternative is piracy.”


Of course, stopping piracy is something the labels are striving for every day, but they also want to do business on their terms and maintain control over their product. Grooveshark, it seems, may be being perceived as problematic in that area.
“As far as I can tell, it’s not that labels don’t want money. It’s that they don’t want Grooveshark’s type of money. They see that model as a slippery slope,” our source explains.
“The last thing they want is for artists to be able to make a living in a way that undercuts the 1-to-1 value of recording to dollar. It’s seen as an attack on their power base, which is not what Grooveshark set out to do.”
TorrentFreak has learned that Grooveshark’s creators initially believed that the labels would not only embrace the company’s technology, but seeing value in new artist revenue streams would also be the first to invest. That seems unlikely now.
But the company still firmly believes that long-term viability coupled with equity and revenue sharing can bring in more money than traditional streaming models for the labels. However, for reasons best known to Universal, Warner and Sony, the litigation route has been selected instead and Grooveshark will now have to fight its corner in a civil lawsuit, presumably protected by the DMCA.


“The DMCA Safe Harbors are not a loophole,” our source insists.
“They are necessary for the progress of society and are meant for situations EXACTLY like Grooveshark’s. It’s not something to use for protection or to hide behind. It’s meant to allow the development of technologies that are potentially revolutionary. That doesn’t mean that if you operate within them, you shouldn’t be expected to reward content creators for their work and that’s not what we want them to mean.”
But because of the position Grooveshark finds itself in, the company has been left with a dilemma.
“When record labels use threat of criminal prosecution as a negotiating tactic you are left with two choices; Continue working to improve the user experience, build tools for those rights holders that do want to participate and do your best to walk the straight and narrow of the law. Or stop innovating in an industry that is desperate for innovation.”
“Which is the principled position?”

continued....
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Old 16-03-12, 19:38   #2
 
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Default Re: Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

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Anti-Piracy Group Asks Court To Order Grooveshark DNS Block

* enigmax
* November 14, 2011

After court action in Denmark ended with the country’s major Internet service providers blocking The Pirate Bay, copyright holders now have a new target in their sights. An anti-piracy group say they have sent an urgent letter to a court demanding that Grooveshark should be subjected to an ISP DNS blockade, an action which would take the site offline in Denmark.

Anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen, who are better known by their former name of Antipiratgruppen, have revealed their latest target. Surprisingly though, it’s not a notorious torrent portal or some other so-called ‘rogue site’.

According to comments originally made in the print version of Politiken, RettighedsAlliancen have sent an urgent demand to the Danish “bailiff court” (known locally as Fogedretten) to have the country’s Internet service providers block US-based streaming music service Grooveshark.

“When you want to offer music on the Danish market, one must have an agreement with rightholders to do so. Grooveshark does not and has been completely uncooperative,” explained RettighedsAlliancen chief Maria Fredenslund.

In recent years access to authorized streaming services such as Spotify has increased for Danes, says Fredenslund, so now is the time to give those types of companies protection.

“There is a burgeoning market for online music that we believe it is necessary to support. We are in a situation where the market will die if Grooveshark continues,” she adds.

Previously other sites have been blocked on copyright infringement grounds in Denmark including AllofMP3 and more recently The Pirate Bay, but the situation with Grooveshark is more complex. Since sites like TPB do not honor DMCA-style takedown requests, arguing that they should be blocked becomes a greatly simplified process. For Grooveshark the situation is much more complex.

Senior VP of Information Products at Grooveshark, Paul Geller, is on record stating that “there is nothing illegal” about Grooveshark since like its video counterpart YouTube, by responding to takedown notices it enjoys Safe Harbor under the DMCA.

Rightsholders in Denmark, however, say they don’t have the patience to deal with the process and that taking down content effectively from Grooveshark has proved impossible. Just like the RIAA, they suggest that the DMCA swings too far in favor of service providers, and official label licensing is required for a service to be considered legitimate. (Grooveshark is in fact licensed by EMI and dozens of other labels)

Nevertheless, Geller’s position on takedowns is widely supported. Piratgruppen spokesman Troels Møller describes this new move against Grooveshark as “censorship.”

“Grooveshark reacts to takedown notices, but that is not good enough for the copyright industry – they want complete control,” Troels told TorrentFreak. “And I can see why since Spotify, partially owned by the record companies, was just launched in Denmark. It is a very convenient time to get rid of the competition.”

“Denmark is becoming a censoring state, much like Syria, Tunisia, China, etc. They are effectively destroying the internet. It’s becoming less and less neutral and free,” Troels adds. “Luckily they are only using DNS-blocking so far, which can be easily circumvented.”

Troels, who is also co-founder of
internet think tank Bitbureauet, is concerned that should a block against Grooveshark be approved, it would set a worryingly low blocking threshold for other sites in the future.

“If the same logic is applied throughout the internet, the next logical step would be to block Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud and similar sites, which also host potentially infringing material until notified,” he concludes.

Jakob Willer of the Telecommunications Industry Association of Denmark says it’s not for his group or the ISPs to decide whether Grooveshark is legal, but hopes the service will get a chance to defend itself.

“I hope that Grooveshark will be consulted in the process because they are the ones who where applicable, will be barred,” Willer concludes.

Grooveshark’s Geller says he is unaware of any case pending against his company in Denmark.
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Old 16-03-12, 19:41   #3
 
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Default Re: Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

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“Grooveshark Bosses Uploaded Music” Say Universal In Massive Lawsuit

* enigmax
* November 19, 2011

In a quite astonishing lawsuit, Universal Music could be demanding hundreds of millions in damages from Grooveshark’s music streaming service. Claims in the lawsuit lay waste to Grooveshark’s insistence that they enjoy ‘safe harbor’ under the DMCA, stating categorically that bosses and other workers at the company, from the CEO down, personally uploaded many thousands of infringing tracks to the service.

On October 13th, Digital Music News (DMN) published an article titled “King Crimson Can’t Get Their Music Off of Grooveshark” which documented a heated email exchange between King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and supporters, and Grooveshark.

The conclusion drawn by Fripp was that getting unauthorized music taken down from Grooveshark is next to impossible, and that even when music is taken down, it simply reappears. Grooveshark SVP Paul Geller eventually acknowledged mistakes had been made, but also criticized Fripp’s attempts at “doctoring” details of discussions between the band and the company concerning the takedowns.

But on the same day, October 17th, a comment claiming to come from a Grooveshark employee appeared on DMN with alleged details of how the company operates.

“We are assigned a predetermined ammount [sic] of weekly uploads to the system and get a small extra bonus if we manage to go above that (not easy). The assignments are assumed as direct orders from the top to the bottom, we don’t just volunteer to ‘enhance’ the Grooveshark database,” the posting began.

“All search results are monitored and when something is tagged as ‘not available’, it get’s [sic] queued up to our lists for upload. You have to visualize the database in two general sections: ‘known’ stuff and ‘undiscovered/indie/underground’. The ‘known’ stuff is taken care internally by uploads. Only for the ‘undiscovered’ stuff are the users involved as explained in some posts above,” it added.

If the previous paragraphs weren’t enough, then came the killer.

“Practically speaking, there is not much need for users to upload a major label album since we already take care of this on a daily basis.”

According to a CNET report, UMG have taken a keen interest in the anonymous post, going as far as to cite it in a freshly-filed lawsuit that contains claims which if proven true, have the potential to destroy Grooveshark at a stroke.

“[The business records of Escape Media Group, Grooveshark's parent company] establish unequivocally that the sound recordings illegally copied by Escape’s executives and employees include thousands of well known sound recordings owned by UMG,” write Universal’s lawyers in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Of course, if Grooveshark’s employees have indeed been uploading music to the service, the company’s DMCA ‘safe harbor’ protection is dead in the water. But anonymous Internet postings aside, just how sure are UMG that Grooveshark staff really did upload infringing material? Apparently, very sure indeed.

Last year, Universal filed a complaint in New York County Court against Escape Media Group containing claims that Grooveshark was providing “free access to UMG’s pre-1972 recordings.” As part of that process Universal was forced to hand over a database containing details on music uploads to the Grooveshark system. Items in there clearly piqued the interest of UMG.

The new complaint filed yesterday states that Grooveshark CEO Samuel Tarantino personally uploaded at least 1,791 copyrighted songs to the Grooveshark system, Senior Vice President Paul Geller 3,453, and Vice President Benjamin Westermann-Clark more than 4,600 illicit tracks.

Although it is unclear how many of these are covered by UMG copyrights, in total the label says that more than 100,000 tracks were illegally uploaded by Grooveshark employees. At $150,000 per infringement, by anyone’s calculations that is a staggering amount of money.

This has been a bad week for Grooveshark. Earlier, anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen, who are better known by their former name Antipiratgruppen, revealed they had sent an urgent demand to the Danish “bailiff court” (known locally as Fogedretten) to have the country’s ISPs block the site.
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Old 16-03-12, 19:47   #4
 
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Default Re: Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

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Grooveshark Prepares To Unmask Anonymous ‘Whistleblower’


* enigmax
* November 30, 2011


As both sides in the forthcoming Universal Music versus Grooveshark copyright infringement lawsuit prepare to do battle, a warning shot has been sounded across the bows of the currently anonymous individual whose comments set off the legal chain reaction. The alleged Grooveshark whistleblower could be unmasked following a request not from Universal, but from Grooveshark’s legal team.

Whether intended or not, a lowly user comment posted to Digital Music News during October has seen its online status upgraded from mere footnote, to the basis of what could be the largest music copyright infringement suit since LimeWire.

In his or her comment the individual claimed to be a somewhat disgruntled Grooveshark employee, outlining claims of copyright infringement at the company which if true would destroy any safe harbor protection Grooveshark might have enjoyed.

The claims were picked up by Universal Music and referenced heavily in their recently filed lawsuit against Grooveshark, one which the company says it will fight.

Of course, everyone wants to know who the anonymous commenter is, if only to assess their credibility. Surprisingly, though, the first indication that there could soon be a subpoena to find out hasn’t come from plaintiffs Universal.

“While [Grooveshark parent] Escape [Media Group] certainly denies those allegations, and believes that Universal’s lawsuit has no merit, the anonymous comment in your publication, and related information, may be important to the lawsuit,” wrote Grooveshark’s legal counsel Marshall Custer in correspondence with Digital Music News this week.

“As a result, I must request that you preserve all electronic information and any other records related to that comment, as it can be reasonably anticipated that either Grooveshark or Universal may find it necessary to subpoena such information as the case progresses,” he concludes.

The big question now is what information Digital Music News keeps on its commenters. In order to stop spam and abuse many sites carry IP address information, and if these can be paired with a usable timestamp Grooveshark could then move to the next stage – sending a subpoena to the individual’s ISP in order to obtain their identity – or at least the identity of the person paying the bill.

To date only Grooveshark has indicated they would seek information from DMN.

“Oddly, Universal Music Group has never contacted us regarding this comment, either before or after the legal filing,” says DMN founder Paul Resnikoff.

One can only speculate on the reasons for Universal’s apparent lack of interest in obtaining the individual’s identity, but sometimes the fog of war needs to lift before a precise strategy and what people already know is truly revealed.

So until then the question remains: Is the currently anonymous commenter a genuine whistleblower or simply malicious? The legal difference may yet prove interesting.
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Old 16-03-12, 19:50   #5
 
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Default Re: Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

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Grooveshark Blocks German Users Over Licensing Costs

* enigmax * January 18, 2012

This morning millions of Internet users in Germany have woken to find their online music listening options reduced. Music streaming service Grooveshark has self-censored in the country, citing “unreasonably high” licensing costs imposed by local music rights collections group GEMA. In other news, Grooveshark is now trying to unmask the ‘whistleblower’ who recently landed them in so much legal trouble with the major labels. Grooveshark users in Germany officially became former users of the service today after the US-based music streaming site stopped offering its service there. Grooveshark has in excess of 30 million users, less than 10% of which are located in Germany. Rather than being presented with the usual page from where almost any music in the world can be found, local users were instead greeted with the following message: Groovegerman Due to unreasonably high operating costs, the notice reads, Grooveshark is now inaccessible from Germany. “We will miss you! You can write to us. We hope to come back one day,” it continues. “If you want to reduce the operating costs for both providers and Grooveshark, you can send a polite message to GEMA.” GEMA is the local music rights collections organization in Germany and according to its own stats has 64,000 members and represents more than 2 million rights holders. The organization has a history of licensing disputes, most visibly when it started blocking videos on YouTube in order to achieve a deal on its terms with the Google-owned company. The unpopular move was even met with criticism from prominent music industry players, including CEO of Sony Music, Edgar Berger, who suggested that members of GEMA’s supervisory board had not yet arrived in the digital era. “We want to see streaming services like Vevo and Spotify in the German market. [These platforms] must not be blocked by GEMA any longer,” he said. “Artists and music companies are losing sales in the millions.” Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Berger will apply the same sentiments to Grooveshark’s plight. All the major labels – Sony, Universal, Warner and EMI – are suing Grooveshark over copyright infringement or royalty issues in the United States. That legal process was stepped up this week when Grooveshark sent a reportedly aggressive and broad-reaching subpoena to Digital Music News in an attempt to unmask a supposed whistleblower whose allegations form the basis of Universal’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the music streamer. On its German page, Grooveshark concludes its German departure message by suggesting that users test out the local Simfy music service as an alternative, but many will simply head over to Google and type “US proxy” instead.
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Old 16-03-12, 19:52   #6
 
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Default Re: Grooveshark Fights To Keep Music Open

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Court Orders ISP To Block Grooveshark

* enigmax
* February 21, 2012


A group of more than 30 rightsholders have won their case targeted against Grooveshark in Denmark. A court agreed that both the streaming music service and its users infringe recording label copyrights and granted an injunction forcing an ISP to initiate a block of the service. The anti-piracy group behind the action hopes that other ISPs will now follow suit.

Last year, a group of entertainment companies known collectively as RettighedsAlliancen sent a demand to the Danish Bailiff Court (known locally as Fogedretten) to have the country’s Internet service providers block US-based streaming music service Grooveshark.

RettighedsAlliancen chief Maria Fredenslund said that Grooveshark had no content agreements or licenses with members of her group, accused the service of being “completely uncooperative” in negotiations, and that effectively taking down content from Grooveshark had proven impossible.

The resulting legal action was directed “randomly” at telecoms company ’3′ with a complaint that the ISP’s customers breach copyright and as their supplier they are contributing to infringements.

’3′ argued that not all content on Grooveshark is offered without permission since artists and labels legally upload and distribute their music via the service. If the court did indeed order an injunction its effects would be disproportionate and result in the censorship of legal content, ’3′ argued.

However, the court said that even though certain aspects of the Grooveshark service may be considered legal, the extent of the copyright violations being committed using the service overwhelmed them.

The Bailiff Court said that ’3′ was unlikely to suffer any financial losses as the result of an injunction and since ’3′ customers are violating copyright law when they stream music from Grooveshark, they would not be able to claim compensation from ’3′ when they could no longer access the site.

Based on the Danish implementation of the Infosoc Directive, the court ordered an immediate injunction against ’3′ which prohibits it from facilitating subscriber access to Grooveshark.

“Grooveshark is an illegal site, which is really big and popular. But they have a business model that is based on trickery and fraud,” said RettighedsAlliancen chief Maria Fredenslund commenting on the news.

“Many users believe that when they use Grooveshark payment goes back to the artists and producers. So we think it was important to close off access so the legitimate sites have a chance to recover,” Fredenslund added.

But Troels Møller, co-founder of internet think-tank Bitbureauet, says blocking access to Grooveshark is a step too far.

“This is an attack on free speech and basic Internet freedom. Danish politicians need to educate themselves on this subject, and realize that what is going on is very dangerous. It’s a slippery-slope into complete internet censorship,” he told TorrentFreak.

“In Denmark we are seeing this kind of censorship in more and more areas. It has expanded from blocking child abuse-sites to also blocking file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay, and again to foreign pharmacy and gambling sites. And now we see blocking of music streaming sites without the proper license. What’s next?”

In the meantime, ’3′ are planning their next move

“We have received the result and will now decide what to do next,” Stinne Green Paulsen, Communications Manager at ’3′, told TorrentFreak. “We have four weeks to decide if we want to proceed or not.”

Proceeding would mean ’3′ taking the case to the High Court, but whatever the decision in the meantime the injunction will stand.

In addition to Grooveshark, other sites that have been blocked in Denmark on copyright infringement grounds include AllofMP3 and more recently The Pirate Bay.

RettighedsAlliancen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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