Digital Grooveshark Timeline

Grooveshark withdraws from Germany over alleged GEMA dispute

By | Published on Friday 20 January 2012


Grooveshark has announced it is withdrawing from the German market because is it unable to reach a deal with the country’s publishing rights collecting society GEMA. Which is interesting, who knew not being able to secure a licence would stop Grooveshark from operating?

That GEMA would not licence Grooveshark is not surprising, given the German equivalent of PRS For Music has been reluctant to back many advertising or subscription based streaming services in recent years, including Spotify. Indeed, some in the artist and label communities have been critical of GEMA’s attitude towards streaming-based digital music platforms, though with all four majors currently involved in litigation with Grooveshark, they are less likely to find supporters elsewhere in the music community than Spotify et al.

Nevertheless, Grooveshark was critical of GEMA, saying it was forced to leave the German market because the collecting society’s royalty demands were “unreasonably high”. Though GEMA, for its part, denied having any negotiations with the Groovesharkers, and said the US-based digital company had refused to pay licensing fees of any kind.

As previously reported, Grooveshark does have licensing deals with some independent labels, and in theory EMI, though the label is currently suing for allegedly unpaid royalties. Universal, Sony and Warner have never licensed the streaming service, which includes a user-upload facility, and are currently suing the Grooveshark company in the US, alleging that bosses there routinely upload unlicensed content, and then pretend users have uploaded it in order to get protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which protects web operators from liability for their users’ infringement providing they operate some kind of content takedown system).

While Grooveshark’s legal disputes with the labels have been widely documented, its negotiations with the publishing sector – usually via the collecting societies – have been less high profile. The service is not currently licensed by PRS For Music in the UK, but operates here nevertheless.