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TuneCore boss hits out at Grooveshark

By | Published on Friday 13 April 2012


While Grooveshark is now very much the enemy of all four major record companies, the digital music firm does still have licensing deals in place with some independent labels (not least Merlin, the body which represents the bigger indies).

Meanwhile, Grooveshark bosses often insist their service has fans amongst the artist community. Which it might. Though I think it’s fair to say some key players in the indie label and artist communities are as angry about the streaming service as the big corporates.

As much previously reported, Universal Music has been pursuing litigation against Grooveshark for some time. They believe that the digital company – which lets users upload music to its catalogue, and in theory removes unlicensed content if made aware of it, inline with its obligations under US copyright law – operates a deliberately shoddy content takedown system, so that it is able to make large amounts of copyrighted music available without a licence, but avoid liability for copyright infringement claims (in the US at least) by theoretically complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Though Universal’s latest lawsuit actually focuses on allegations that Grooveshark has its own staff upload unlicensed content to its platform which – if true – would mean the takedown system the firm operates, shoddy or otherwise, wouldn’t help the company avoid liability for infringement. Grooveshark denies the allegations, while Sony Music and Warner Music have backed their rival’s litigation. Meanwhile EMI, which had licensed Grooveshark in settlement of an early lawsuit, has revoked that licence and begun new legal action.

But what about the indies and self-releasing artists? Well, now the boss of TuneCore, which represents self-releasing acts in the digital domain, has hit out at Grooveshark too, accusing the company of “knowingly and willingly using a legal loophole to steal from artists and songwriters”.

In a blog post published yesterday, Jeff Price added: “Even worse, [Grooveshark bosses] try to defend themselves by having the attitude of ‘hey, we love artists and all we are doing is trying to support them’. What a load of crap”.

Noting that the digital service claims to have over 30 million users, Price continues: “When you have 30 million people coming to your website, you have a lot of web traffic. This means you can start making money by charging entities to advertise on your site. After all, you reach tens of millions of consumers. Just think of all the money Grooveshark makes by selling ads”.

He continues: “There is just one really big, big problem: they don’t get licenses and don’t pay the artists, the labels and/or the songwriters for the use of the music that’s making them tons of money. I can assure you, 99% of the hundreds of thousands of TuneCore artists whose music is in Grooveshark have not been paid a single penny”.

Supporting the ‘deliberately shoddy takedown system’ accusations made by the majors, Price says that, far from supporting artists, Grooveshark exploits what amounts to a loophole in American copyright law to profit from music it doesn’t pay for. “Some scumbag saw this legal loophole, and must have thought something like: My meal ticket is in. Here is a way to make a lot of money by using music without having to pay artists, labels or songwriters”.

To say Grooveshark was actually set up to deliberately and exclusively exploit a copyright loophole for profit is almost certainly unfair, though Price’s blog does confirm that people at all levels of the music industry, from the majors to the self-releasing grass root artists, do now believe that is what is happening at Grooveshark towers. Meaning the digital service may struggle to find any friends in the music community willing to speak in its favour once the major label lawsuits it now faces reach court.

Read Price’s blog here.