Grooveshark Timeline Legal

Grooveshark win stage one of Universal legal spat

By | Published on Monday 14 June 2010

Sometimes controversial US-based streaming music service Grooveshark has won stage one of its lawsuit with Universal Music.

As previously reported, while Grooveshark claims to operate within US copyright law, some in the music industry beg to differ. EMI previously sued the start-up, but reached a licensing deal with the company before getting to court. Now Universal is doing the suing, specifically in relation to its pre-1972 catalogue, which it claims Grooveshark is making available to its users without licence.

It’s assumed Universal have focused on their pre-1972 catalogue because this means – due to a whim of the US copyright system – they must fight their case under State rather than Federal copyright laws. This means Florida-based Grooveshark owners Escape Media will have to defend themselves in the New York courts, making the process more complicated.

Universal’s lawyers then tried to complicate things even further, by proposing first that the case be split into two phases, liability and damages, and then that the former should be based on an assessment of a sample of allegedly infringe recordings, rather than Universal’s whole pre-72 catalogue.

Or something like that. I don’t really understand the major’s proposals to be honest, but I do know Universal’s legal men argued what they proposed would make things simpler for all concerned, but that Escape Media’s attorneys disagreed, arguing that the claimant’s proposals would deliberately make things more difficult for their client.

I’ve no idea who was right, but the New York judge hearing the case, Barbara Kapnick, sided with Team Grooveshark last week, ruling that a two phase hearing would not be appropriate because damages and liability issues are intertwined, and that assessing liability on a sample group of recordings would be unfair to the defendants. So that’s nice.

The case continues.