Business News Digital Grooveshark Timeline Legal

Digital Music News does not have to reveal Grooveshark commentator’s identity

By | Published on Tuesday 20 May 2014


Grooveshark last week was told it couldn’t force the music business website Digital Music News to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster who, in 2011, made allegations against the often controversial streaming service, after DMN took an earlier ruling to the Californian appeals court.

As previously reported, the DMN poster claimed to have worked for Grooveshark and that while there s/he had been ordered by management at the company to upload copyright infringing content to the firm’s platform.

Such an admission – if proven to be true – would have a big impact on Grooveshark’s legal position, in that it claims that only users upload content to its servers, which allows the company to circumvent liability for copyright infringement if and when it hosts unlicensed tracks, under provisions in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That protection ceases if Groovesharkers themselves are uploading such content.

One of the major label lawsuits against Grooveshark is based on this premise, and the labels cited the DMN commentator in their initial litigation. Leading to Grooveshark demanding to know the identity of the comment poster, who – the digital firm argued – had defamed them, and in doing so hindered their legal battle with Universal Music et al.

DMN refused to hand over the data it had relating to the anonymous poster, leading to a legal battle that centered on the commenter and website’s First Amendment rights, whether Grooveshark’s allegations of defamation limited those rights, and whether Californian privacy laws provided further protection to the streaming firm’s accuser.

At first instance the courts sided with Grooveshark, but last week the Court Of Appeal overturned that decision because, according to Torrentfreak, this “out-of-court quarrel is of no consequence to the determination of [the major labels’] lawsuit [against Grooveshark]” and “even if [the poster’s] identifying information was reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence [in that case], his or her right to privacy under the California Constitution would outweigh [Grooveshark’s] need for the information”.