Can online music services use copyrighted works without permission of the copyright holder?
The online music industry is always ripe with disputes. Internet music downloading and streaming services have been involved in copyright infringement litigation going back to the days of Napster. Not surprisingly, another online music streaming service has been involved in a copyright issue and found to have violated Federal laws.
Grooveshark, based in Gainesville, Florida, allows users to stream music from it’s website. The company had a huge following entering 2011 and was signing advertising deals with major businesses. In some instances, Grooveshark was streaming music without the permission of the works copyright holder and claiming that they were protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This act allows websites to use material owned by others as long as they take down the material once notified by the copyright holder. Unfortunately, the three major record companies were not persuaded by this argument and filed suit against the company in a United States District Court in Manhattan in 2011.
The District Court recently found against Grooveshark on a motion for summary judgment. They held that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act did not protect the company because its own employees (including corporate officers) uploaded music to the site themselves without the authorization of copyright holders. The company not only knew they were committing copyright infringement and uploaded the music anyway, but, also requested that employees upload infringing material or face consequences. The court also found that the company destroyed evidence that would have been relevant to the case.
The amount of damages has yet to be decided, but a large verdict could bankrupt the company. While it claims to be exploring its options to appeal this case, Grooveshark is also facing copyright lawsuits by various other parties.
Copyright laws are complicated and therefore copyright litigation can be complex. It is important to contact an experienced copyright litigation attorney should you be accused of infringement or looking to assert your rights under a copyright you hold. Thomas M. Lancia handles all types of copyright litigation in the New York City area. Contact him by calling (212)964-3157 today.