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Here's an entry in my journal from last summer when I first heard of Grooveshark:

I stumbled across a service called Grooveshark. To be brief, Grooveshark allows the community to upload their own audio content, a la YouTube. As with YouTube, however, there exists a proliferation of copyrighted material uploaded by those who do not own the copyrights. Audio, especially music, seems to attract far more of this behavior. As a result, Grooveshark has as page for funneling those who wish to issue DMCA takedowns.[1] The content on that page is interesting―and laughable.

It's a shame that any networks which try to have an open system like this are afflicted by users who will ruin things. Really, it sucks. But Grooveshark's complacency―they are well aware of how their service is used―and hubris―note the attempted scare tactic of citing Online Policy Group v. Diebold―really makes me wish someone would come along and strike them down. Indeed, it looks like EMI is suing them for copyright infringement.[2] I have no sympathy for Grooveshark. At one time, it may have been a service started in earnest for distributing independent music, although I'm not even sure of this. … So now Grooveshark is part of the unfortunate force that makes the aforementioned ideas impractical, by contributing to the notion that authors' rights don't matter and further fostering that idea in the general populace as well.

[1] Grooveshark. Grooveshark and the DMCA. http://www.grooveshark.com/dmca. Accessed 2009 July 26. Archive at http://www.webcitation.org/5iYrbE3YQ

[2] Rosoff, Matt. EMI lawsuit hasn't shut down Grooveshark―yet. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13526_3-10267898-27.html. CNET News. 2009 June 18. Accessed 2009 July 26. Archive at http://www.webcitation.org/5iYs4ZiIP

When I originally wrote that, I used the word "complacency" there, and the rest of what I wrote was along that idea. As I recall, however, their complacency wasn't the real motivator behind my anger; the DMCA practically requires it. Really, what made me most mad was the sense of complicity they had exhibited. They were essentially encouraging the infringing use without explicitly saying so, but in a kind of nudge-nudge-wink-wink manner as if to skirt legal liability.

EDIT: There are three things that I recall that really pissed me off, now that I think about it.

1. If you so much as checked out the popular music list, it resembled a p2p listing, filled with clearly infringing content. Removing that content wouldn't seem to result in them falling afoul of the DMCA safe harbor provisions, since it's not like they're actively making an attempt to seek out infringing use and take care of it in the absence of a takedown. This was the type of pervasiveness that would basically make it impossible for any Grooveshark employees to use the service without being made aware of massive, visible infringement. I would assert that you would have had a hard time finding music that wasn't infringing at the time.

2. The previously-mentioned nudge-nudge-wink-winkedness of their attitude. What's more, it was like they were trying to pull a fast one by mentioning OPG v. Diebold. (Aggressive IP lawyers for corporations generally don't seem to care if you present sound justification for cases like legitimate fair use, so what makes you think they're going to turn the other way based on a bluff founded on bullshit?) Additionally, item 2 on their DMCA page said and still says:

Please provide us with at minimum a URL to each work that is claimed to be infringing. Note: Providing us with search terms such as "Artist A" or "Song B" will not be considered reasonably sufficient for us to locate the alleged infringing work. There may be 100 versions of "Song B", and you may only have the rights to request a takedown for one of those versions.

It didn't help that if you pulled up a list with 100 versions of a song, 100 of them would have been infringing uses at the time that I wrote that piece, nor did it help that the Grooveshark website was an inaccessible Flash-based piece of crap that make that kind of data collection cumbersome. It's still a Flash-based site, but a different one, and I'm not sure how much has changed since I wrote that.

It's almost as if they thought to themselves "Hey, if we put this wording in the DMCA page to scare them off and make it really hard for the fearless, we can ensure we'll remain untouched and last forever!" Like I said, hubris.

3. The big deal behind Grooveshark was that they wanted to do cooperative marketing/revenue with the labels based on ads. This came under the guise of independent artists being allowed to upload music and then the profits would be split. What it really meant was that you'd see a tracklisting of the form similar to "Are You Gonna Be My Girl — brianw639"; everyone was making money off of this except the artists and labels.




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