Music Label Won Appeal Against Grooveshark
7th May 2013
Last month, a New York court of appeals ruled against the well-known file-sharing service Grooveshark. Almost two years ago, Universal Music launched a lawsuit against the portal, blaming it of copyright infringement. Worse still, Sony Music and Warner joined the suit the next month.
Grooveshark hoped that the DMCA will provide the service with safe harbor, but in April 2013 a New York court of appeals decided that thanks to an “anomaly” in the copyright legislation, the music service is responsible for copyright violation. The matter is that the DMCA stated “safe harbor” couldn’t be applied for works that were licensed before February 15, 1972.
Indeed, in 1971, the Congress mended the copyright legislation by turning it into a federal matter. Nevertheless, works, which were licensed before 1972, should be regarded under the grasp of the common legislation and statues of individual states. This is why Universal Music pointed to the fact that the file-sharing portal is liable for copyright infringement.
Despite the fact that a previous court ruled in favor of the online portal, the New York court of appeals reversed the ruling. Indeed, Grooveshark had difficulties with distinguishing which user-submitted sound recordings were covered by federal copyright and which by state copyright, while its legal liability depended on that difference. As a result, without universal protection from the DMCA’s safe harbor scheme, the file-sharing service may be required to pre-screen user uploads to figure out whether the file is a pre-1972 sound recording or not, and handle those files differently.
Anyway, the judges in charge with the case claimed that it is not unreasonable, based on the statutory language and the context in which the legislation was enacted, to conclude that Congress intended for the DMCA only to apply to the works created after 1972. Therefore, they rejected Grooveshark’s argument that the very purpose of the DMCA will be thwarted if it’s deemed not to apply to the pre-1972 recordings.
Thus far, it is unclear whether YouTube, which is based on the same business model, will share the same fate. The industry experts claim that it’s not likely, because Google’s video service had signed a private contract which stipulates that the music label is able to take down its own copyrighted works at any point.