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Grooveshark reduces data demands on Digital Music News

By | Published on Thursday 5 July 2012


Grooveshark has reduced its subpoena demands against Digital Music News after a court ruled that the controversial streaming service should cover the costs of holding onto digital data for possible future review. As previously reported, Grooveshark began legal action against DMN after Universal Music cited an anonymous comment left of the digital music news site in its most recent lawsuit against the streaming music set up.

Universal, Sony and Warner are all suing Grooveshark over allegations that the streaming service, which allows users to upload music to its libraries, also directly uploads unlicensed music files to its servers. Grooveshark claims that, while it may routinely provide access to large amounts of unlicensed music, because that content is uploaded by users, and because the company operates a takedown system as described in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, its operations are legal, in the US at least.

While Universal et al would not agree, that area of US copyright law is sufficiently vague that should the major label sue, a court win would not be assured (indeed precedent would suggest they’d more likely lose). Therefore Universal has decided to sue over allegations that, as well as users uploading unlicensed content, Grooveshark staff members are routinely instructed to do the same. If true, the digital firm would not be able to claim protection under the DMCA.

Grooveshark denies those particular allegations, but an anonymous poster on DMN claimed that they worked for the digital company and were, indeed, routinely told to upload music that had not been licensed by the relevant rights owners. And it was that comment Universal cited in its lawsuit against the streaming firm.

While it’s doubtful an anonymous comment on a website would stand up as evidence in court anyway, Grooveshark has been trying to force DMN to hand over logs from its servers to try to identify where the accusatory remark came from. DMN insists that, by the time Grooveshark made its demands, no useful information would be available, but nevertheless a court told the digital news company that it must ensure that all data on its server, at that point, was protected pending future discussions.

DMN’s Paul Reskinoff writes: “That included servers that contained vast numbers of unused, unallocated data blocks, with the idea that somehow, identifying information from an anonymous comment posted in October was recoverable. [That] created a number of immediate operational limitations and hazards for Digital Music News. Simply stated, it’s hard to do business when you can’t use your stuff. The reason is that freezing large blocks of data effectively freezes a number of active projects, simply because routine activity often overwrites earlier, unused and unallocated blocks and would violate the court’s ruling”.

Following protests by DMN’s lawyer Paul Alan Levy, the judge hearing the case, Richard Stone, has accepted that the disruption caused to the digital music news site is inappropriate, given Digital Music News is in essence an innocent third party in the bigger Universal v Grooveshark case. To that end, Stone said that Grooveshark should cover the costs of holding on to all the data it had demanded access to.

After being told that would cost in the region of $15,000, Grooveshark’s legal reps altered their demands, saying that they would make do with ‘virtual machine images’ saved on 15 May, which are much easier for DMN to store. The streaming company’s legal rep told Stone: “My client is a start-up as well. Its resources are tight and it is under attack”.