It would be fair to say that the relationship between the world’s major recording labels and streaming music service Grooveshark is a rocky one at best.
Founded in 2006 as a site where users could upload their own music and listen to streams for free, friction with record companies built alongside Grooveshark’s growth. EMI first filed a copyright infringement suit against the company in 2009 but it was withdrawn later that year after the pair reached a licensing agreement.
Since then there have been major and ongoing disputes with the labels of the RIAA who accuse Grooveshark of massive copyright infringement. Those behind the service insist that Grooveshark is simply a YouTube-like site which is entitled to enjoy the safe harbor protections of the DMCA.
Part of Grooveshark’s DMCA responsibilities is to remove infringing content once a copyright holder asks for it to be taken down. Grooveshark doesn’t publish any kind of transparency report but there is nothing to suggest that in 2015 it doesn’t take that responsibility extremely seriously.
However, Google’s transparency report reveals that the world’s major recording labels are currently hitting Grooveshark particularly hard. In fact, between the RIAA, IFPI and several affiliated anti-piracy groups, Google handled 346,619 complaints during the past month alone, with up to 10,000 URLs reported in a single notice.
While the labels have always complained about Grooveshark to Google, the big question is why the game is being stepped up now. Both the RIAA and Grooveshark tend to remain tight-lipped on such matters, but in recent times Google’s transparency report has become a convenient barometer for rightsholders to illustrate how ‘infringing’ any particular site is.
According to the report, last month those complaints made Grooveshark the 7th most-complained about domain in the world, just one position behind 4Shared, a site the USTR declares a “notorious market”. It should be noted that Grooveshark is definitely not on that list, but there are other reasons for Google to be sent as many complaints about Grooveshark as possible.
Around October 2014, Google tweaked its search algorithm so that sites receiving the most takedown notices were placed lower in its search results. The move not only hit torrent sites hard, but also affected many cyber-locker type domains too. As show in the Alexa chart below, Grooveshark’s traffic has also been largely on the decline since October.
While there could be other factors at play for the downturn in traffic, perhaps the most obvious sign that a recent and massive surge in DMCA notices sent to Google is having an effect on Grooveshark’s visibility can be seen below. Early February the site’s traffic from search fell off a cliff and is currently just half of what it was seven weeks ago.
While results are currently being removed from Google in their hundreds of thousands, Grooveshark is far from on its knees. The site services millions of happy users who are currently enjoying a fully redesigned platform which looks and performs better than its predecessor.
One thing is for certain; if the current pressure continues Grooveshark’s own search engine will work much better than Google’s when it comes to finding music on the service.