Apple Pulls Grooveshark iPhone App Following Universal Music Complaint
Following a complaint form Universal Music Group UK, Apple pulled down the recently approved Grooveshark iPhone app. The app had been receiving rave reviews, but Grooveshark only has licencing deals with EMI and a number of indies. In fact, Universal filed suit against Grooveshark in January and the takedown demand is believed to stem from that dispute.
"This comes as an absolute surprise to us, and we are not sleeping until we figure out exactly how to fix this – and get Grooveshark for iPhone back in the App Store," wrote Grooveshark staffers. "Above all, our biggest concern is damaging the service we provide… If you’ve already downloaded the app, keep enjoying it. We’re going to keep working hard to provide the best services we possibly can across the web, BlackBerry, Android, Palm WebOS, Symbian, and everywhere else you love your music – including the iPhone."
How to “fix it” and get it back in the store is quite simple… don’t allow illegal streaming of copyrighted works. Whether you think music should be “open” and “shared” or not, the fact remains that it’s the right of the copyright holder to decided what can be done with their music.
I’m surprised Grooveshark hasn’t faced more lawsuits. Yeah, nowadays they can cower behind the DMCA and say “oops, didn’t realize that was your copyright we were making money off of,” but DMCA doesn’t cover music prior to 1972. That means for every single song on Grooveshark released prior to 1972, there’s a potential lawsuit.
I agree with Grooveshark that music services like theirs should be the future of music, but I don’t agree with Grooveshark and others like it that go ahead with it without the permission of the copyright holders. It may suck and it may be stupid, but their decision is their decision, and only they have the right to decide where their music is played and shared. And for those rights-holders, they can potentially never get their music removed from Grooveshark. DMCA notices are forwarded to the individual people who uploaded the music. So if 10 people have uploaded my music, and I send the DMCA notice with all the links, and meanwhile 10 more people upload my music, the DMCA notice doesn’t apply. You have to submit another one. And another one.
I also agree with Universal Music’s stance that Grooveshark’s business plan is based on copyright infringement. Because it is. They want users to upload anything they have so that Grooveshark can sell ads and VIP subscriptions and make money off of it. Sure, it’s technically legal thanks to the DMCA, but it’s far from ethical. It’s like running a nightclub where you know everybody is selling drugs inside, and you knowingly allow it to happen despite the cops showing up night after night, but you say “oh, it’s cool, I have a sign up on the far wall that says ‘no drugs allowed’ so I’m not legally responsible.” Really, there’s no difference.
Lastly, the site’s Terms of Service specifically states that if they get sued for something you uploaded, you get to be the one paying for it:
“You hereby indemnify and hold harmless, and upon EMG’s request, defend, EMG its affiliates (and their respective directors, officers and employees) from and against any and all losses, liabilities, damages, costs or expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs) arising out of any claim, action, or proceeding brought by a third party based on: (i) a breach of any warranty, representation, covenant or obligation of yours under this Agreement; or (ii) any allegation that any User Content provided, uploaded, syndicated, linked to or authorized by or on behalf of you hereunder or EMG’s or any User’s use thereof violates or infringes the rights of another party. You will reimburse EMG and its affiliates on demand for any actual payments made in resolution of any liability or claim that is subject to indemnification under this Section 14, provided that EMG obtains your written consent prior to making such payments, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld, delayed or conditioned. EMG shall promptly notify you of any such claim, and you shall assume control of the defense of such claim upon EMG’s request. EMG shall have the right, at its expense, to participate in the defense thereof under your direction.”
Sounds pretty crappy all around. Grooveshark is an awesome concept and a great service; the problem is the business itself. They did the right thing when they first launched by trying to get licensing deals with the big four. But when they said no, Grooveshark did the wrong thing by going forward with a business they knew would be used illegally.
The funny thing is they claim they can’t monitor every song uploaded, and I agree that it would be extremely time-consuming to manually do it, but it’s not like they’d have to implement something like YouTube that uses an algorithm to query the background music of a video to see if it’s copyrighted. Grooveshark relies on accurate ID3 tags and users querying certain artists. All they have to do is disallow certain names. Yeah, it would be a long list, but I’m sure that the other labels would be happy to provide a list of their artists in the format required, so that Grooveshark could copy/paste it in. It would really be that easy for them. Anything that has an Artist name that matches this list is removed from the server, and when somebody tries to upload their catalog and something matches that list, it’s not allowed.
Sorry for the novel. Bottomline is Grooveshark is using the DMCA in a way it wasn’t intended to be used as a loophole for them to run a business model based on violating the rights of others. They claim it’s not, but they don’t do anything to prevent it, and they could prevent it quite easily. Maybe they’ll get it once labels start filing suit for all the pre-’72 tracks on their servers. Or if they make a law against knowingly facilitating copyright infringement.
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