RIAA Defeats Grooveshark “Clone” in Court, Wins $17 Million

The RIAA has scored another win in a prominent piracy lawsuit. The music group has prevailed in its case against the 'reincarnation' of the defunct Grooveshark music service, with a New York federal court granting more than $13 million in piracy damages plus another $4 million for willful counterfeiting.

groovesharkLast May, Grooveshark shut down after settling with the RIAA. However, within days a “clone” was launched aiming to take its place.

The RIAA feared the worst and took the matter to court, where it swiftly obtained an injunction, preventing various Internet service providers from offering their services to the site.

Through the lawsuit the record labels hoped to stop the site from gaining a large user base, something that previously happened to clones of other shuttered sites such as isoHunt.

This strategy paid off. Initially the Grooveshark ‘clone’ remained online for a few weeks, hopping from domain name to domain name, but it eventually vanished from the Internet.

The operator of the site went silent as well. Initially he widely promoted the clone in various media, but in court there was no response at all. This prompted the RIAA to file for a default judgment which has now been granted by U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan.

“Defendants have engaged in willful copyright infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrights through the Counterfeit Service, which allows users to download and stream infringing copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings directly from servers operated or controlled by Defendants, in violation of Plaintiffs’ copyrights,” the judgement reads.

Grooveshark clone

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Aside from a permanent injunction preventing the owner of the site from keeping it online, RIAA has also win millions in damages.

In the original complaint the record labels listed 89 tracks as evidence. The court awarded the maximum statutory damages ($150,000) for each infringement (pdf) which brings the total to a massive $13,350,000.

In addition, the operator of the site is ordered to pay $4 million for willful counterfeiting of two Grooveshark marks and another $400,000 for cybersquatting, by registering four Grooveshark domain names in bad faith.

The court further ordered the transfer of the Grooveshark domain names to the RIAA, so they can’t be used for any infringing actions in the future.

Finally, District Court Judge Alison Nathan stressed that CloudFlare still has an obligation to disconnect any new Grooveshark clones if they are notified by the record labels.

The mention of CloudFlare is noteworthy, as it’s the first time that the company has been specifically mentioned in a permanent injunction against a pirate site. Initially the RIAA wanted Cloudflare to detect any new Grooveshark clones, but the CDN company successfully fought that request.

The RIAA has yet to comment on the outcome of the case. On paper the $17 million judgment is a massive success, but since the site’s operator has yet to be identified it is doubtful that they will ever see a penny.

That said, the main goal was probably to stop the site from operating and deter others from starting their own clones. This mission is accomplished, for now.

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