Grooveshark Bites Back: We’ll Fight Universal in Court, Not The Press

In a lawsuit filed last week, Universal Music made the devastating claim that bosses and other workers at Grooveshark personally uploaded many thousands of infringing tracks to the service. Through their General Counsel, Grooveshark has now bitten back, pouring scorn on the "blatantly false" basis of Universal's claims and their alleged tactic of tipping off the press about the lawsuit before informing Grooveshark.

The 45-page complaint, targeted at Grooveshark parent company Escape Media Group, begins by describing Grooveshark as a “pirate website”.

It further claims that Grooveshark employees, from the CEO down, personally uploaded more than 113,700 tracks including those from Bob Marley, Eminem, Guns N’ Roses, Jay-Z and Black Eyed Peas.

Universal provided the court with “a non-exhaustive” list of 1809 songs which they claim are from the company’s library. Based on allegations of willful infringement the label is claiming $150,000 for each, a cool $271,350,000 – minimum.

Now Grooveshark is biting back through their General Counsel Marshall Custer.

“We have reviewed the Complaint that Universal Music Group filed last Friday against Grooveshark in U.S. District Court in Manhattan,” said Custer. “Universal’s claims rest almost entirely on an anonymous, blatantly false internet blog comment.”

The “blatantly false” comment is reference to a reader post on Digital Music News in which the author claimed that Grooveshark employees were given quotas by the company to upload copyright works, and even given bonuses for doing so.

So effective was the system, the apparently disgruntled employee claimed, that there was “not much need” for Grooveshark users to upload any major album. In their complaint Universal seem to believe the claims.

“Accordingly, to ensure that all recordings are available, Escape’s senior officers personally have uploaded thousands of infringing sound recordings to the Grooveshark website and have instructed their employees to do the same,” the complaint reads. Universal says the table embedded below shows the extent of infringement at the company, and who carried it out.

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But Grooveshark’s Marshall goes on to reject “..Universal’s gross mischaracterization of information that Grooveshark itself provided to Universal,” an apparent reference to a database Escape Media handed to Universal last year as part of another lawsuit which complained that Grooveshark provided “free access to UMG’s pre-1972 recordings.”

Documents referenced in the new lawsuit include email correspondence from Escape Media director Sina Simantob. In one, Simantob said that Grooveshark’s business was bet “on the fact that it is easier to ask for forgiveness [from the labels]than it is to ask for permission,” and in another that Grooveshark’s growth was achieved “without paying a dime to any of the labels.”

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News and detail from the lawsuit was originally broken by CNET late last Friday, but a copy of the complaint has only recently been made available from official sources. Marshall’s statement indicates that Universal chose to tip off the press about the lawsuit, even before they told Grooveshark.

“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,” he concludes.

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