As both sides in the forthcoming Universal Music versus Grooveshark copyright infringement lawsuit prepare to do battle, a warning shot has been sounded across the bows of the currently anonymous individual whose comments set off the legal chain reaction. The alleged Grooveshark whistleblower could be unmasked following a request not from Universal, but from Grooveshark’s legal team.
Whether intended or not, a lowly user comment posted to Digital Music News during October has seen its online status upgraded from mere footnote, to the basis of what could be the largest music copyright infringement suit since LimeWire.
In his or her comment the individual claimed to be a somewhat disgruntled Grooveshark employee, outlining claims of copyright infringement at the company which if true would destroy any safe harbor protection Grooveshark might have enjoyed.
The claims were picked up by Universal Music and referenced heavily in their recently filed lawsuit against Grooveshark, one which the company says it will fight.
Of course, everyone wants to know who the anonymous commenter is, if only to assess their credibility. Surprisingly, though, the first indication that there could soon be a subpoena to find out hasn’t come from plaintiffs Universal.
“While [Grooveshark parent] Escape [Media Group] certainly denies those allegations, and believes that Universal’s lawsuit has no merit, the anonymous comment in your publication, and related information, may be important to the lawsuit,” wrote Grooveshark’s legal counsel Marshall Custer in correspondence with Digital Music News this week.
“As a result, I must request that you preserve all electronic information and any other records related to that comment, as it can be reasonably anticipated that either Grooveshark or Universal may find it necessary to subpoena such information as the case progresses,” he concludes.
The big question now is what information Digital Music News keeps on its commenters. In order to stop spam and abuse many sites carry IP address information, and if these can be paired with a usable timestamp Grooveshark could then move to the next stage – sending a subpoena to the individual’s ISP in order to obtain their identity – or at least the identity of the person paying the bill.
To date only Grooveshark has indicated they would seek information from DMN.
“Oddly, Universal Music Group has never contacted us regarding this comment, either before or after the legal filing,” says DMN founder Paul Resnikoff.
One can only speculate on the reasons for Universal’s apparent lack of interest in obtaining the individual’s identity, but sometimes the fog of war needs to lift before a precise strategy and what people already know is truly revealed.
So until then the question remains: Is the currently anonymous commenter a genuine whistleblower or simply malicious? The legal difference may yet prove interesting.