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Grooveshark not impressed with Daniel Ek’s ‘piracy’ jibe

By | Published on Wednesday 12 November 2014


So Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s response to Taylor Swift is all very interesting, isn’t it? By hey, woah, hold it there, let’s do a quick rewind shall we to what he said in paragraph fourteen. “To say nothing of the fans who will just turn back to pirate services like Grooveshark”. That’s what he said. I know it, because I saw it.

Of course, most of Spotify’s music industry partners would have no problem with always controversial user-upload streaming service Grooveshark being defined as a ‘piracy’ platform, after all, the majors are currently busy trying to sue the US-based digital company out of business. But – somewhat unsurprisingly – Grooveshark is not so happy with that label.

Grooveshark, of course, argues that it is no different to YouTube. Although users can upload any content they like to its platform, rights owners can order content be removed if they don’t have a licensing deal in place with the digital company.

And even though Grooveshark doesn’t offer rights owners anything like YouTube’s ContentID to simplify the takedown process, it claims it still operates within US copyright law. And it’s a strong claim, demonstrated by the fact the major labels have sued on technicalities rather than based on the argument the firm’s core business model infringes copyright.

Nevertheless, the ‘opt-out-rather-than-opt-in’ approach to streaming, also operated by YouTube and SoundCloud, remains controversial. And Grooveshark is the most controversial operator of that system, with some rights owners arguing that it is exploiting loopholes in US copyright law, operating a deliberately shoddy takedown system, and not entering into serious licensing talks with the labels and publishers about legitimatising its approach (though it does have some licences, was once fully licensed by EMI, and still has some major publishers on board).

Either way, the firm does not appreciate being called a piracy operation by Ek. The firm’s EVP Corporate Communications, James A Pearson told VentureBeat last night: “We would normally never comment on a competitive service and their dust-up with one of the world’s most popular artists. But as Spotify’s CEO – who, it’s worth mentioning, is the recent CEO of uTorrent – an app used by over 100 million people, which had similar perception issues – called Grooveshark ‘a pirate service’ in his blog response to Taylor Swift today, we had to comment on that element”.

Pearson went on: “Copyright laws are complex, and many companies that are now household names in the space – such as YouTube, Pandora, and SiriusXM – have had to defend themselves at one point or another, just as has Grooveshark. Had Mr Ek any actual factual information about our business model he would know Grooveshark currently has active licenses with thousands of music labels, publishers and rights holders, as well as tens of thousands of individual artists. We respect musicians and work to create new ways to get their music heard by a worldwide audience – that’s the driving force behind our existence”.

Ek’s time working for uTorrent, a popular BitTorrent client owned by the BitTorrent company itself, has been brought up a couple of times in recent months, previously mentioned by American artists critical of Spotify. Most Torrent technologies have legitimate uses, of course, though have been linked to piracy ever since the rise of BitTorrent file-sharing.

The fact that Ek worked for uTorrent prior to the proper launch of Spotify isn’t really relevant to anything, though does perhaps illustrate – as Pearson wishes – that legitimate businesses may be unfairly deemed piracy operations. Though, as we say, most major labels get a whole lot more animated discussing Grooveshark than they would any Torrent client.