Universal Music Sues Grooveshark in Big Copyright Case

Universal Music Group has filed a big lawsuit against Grooveshark for copyright infringement. Just days after the music streaming service launched its latest site, the record company is contending that more than 100,000 song files were illicitly uploaded by the company's employees.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in New York federal court, according to CNET.

UMG reports gaining access to company e-mails and other documents that allegedly establish "that the sound recordings illegally copied by Escape's executives and employees, include thousands of well known sound recordings owned by UMG."

Grooveshark has been competing with Spotify in recent years as one of the top music streaming sites online. The service allows users to upload songs, discover music, and make playlists for others. Grooveshark reportedly streams more than 600 million minutes of songs every month.

But rights have been a tricky issue for the company. UMG previously sued its owner, Escape Media Group, for providing access to the label's pre-1972 songs. The company was also recently sued by a Danish coalition of rights holders and has been the subject of complaints by some artists such as King Crimson. Earlier this year, Google pulled Grooveshark from its Android market because of copyright concerns, and the company, based in Florida, only has a deal with one major record label, EMI.

Nevertheless, the company has been growing fast, reporting more than 30 million unique visitors per month and a recent revamp that looked to build further bridges into social media. It has also scored some premium advertisers, such as Mercedes-Benz.

UMG's latest lawsuit reportedly goes further than most copyright complaints by alleging specific action by the company's top executives. For instance, Grooveshark's CEO Samuel Tarantino is accused of having uploaded at least 1,791 copyrighted songs. UMG's complaint also makes issue of the ineffectiveness of takedown notices in getting the service to remove copyrighted material, which could be a disqualifier if Grooveshark seeks safe harbor from copyright liability under the DMCA.

UMG is seeking maximum statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement. 

Grooveshark general counsel Marshall Custer gave us this comment:

"We have reviewed the Complaint that Universal Music Group filed  last Friday against Grooveshark in U.S. District Court in  Manhattan. Universal’s claims rest almost entirely on an anonymous, blatantly false internet blog comment and Universal's gross mischaracterization of information that Grooveshark itself provided to Universal. While Universal has deliberately engaged the media prior to serving a copy of the Complaint on Grooveshark, Grooveshark intends to fight this battle before the Court, not in the press.  Grooveshark welcomes the opportunity to present the facts to the Court and has full confidence that it will prevail in the litigation."

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