Universal Music Moves For Summary Judgment Against Grooveshark

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The four-year legal battle between Universal Music and Grooveshark is heating back up with the label now calling for summary judgment in the case. At issue is Grooveshark's streaming of songs recorded prior to February 1972, which are covered by New York state law, rather than federal copyright law under which Grooveshark can claim safe harbor protections.

In January 2010, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit in a New York court in which it alleged that Grooveshark was offering unauthorized copies of its musical works. The content in question were tracks from Universal’s pre-1972 back catalog.

The date when the tracks were recorded is important, since songs recorded before February 15, 1972, are covered under New York state law and not federal copyright legislation where safe harbor provisions of the DMCA apply.

“This case arises from Defendant’s massive willful copyright infringement and unfair
competition in violation of New York common law,” Universal writes in its latest submission to the Court.

“[Grooveshark parent company] Escape infringed UMG’s copyrighted works billions of times since it launched the current iteration of Grooveshark without any license from UMG and in flagrant violation of UMG’s exclusive rights.”

Describing Escape’s “pervasive copyright infringement” as part of a “premeditated business strategy” carried out by a “blatantly infringing pirate music service”, Universal Music (UMG) has now moved for summary judgment in the case on copyright infringement and unfair competition grounds.

“Escape has admitted that it competes with UMG in the market for the
dissemination of music over the Internet. Accordingly, it obtained an unfair competitive advantage over authorized streaming services by using UMG’s sound recordings without a license or payment.”

Previously, Escape Media counter-claimed against UMG when the company allegedly that UMG had tried to interfere with its business by influencing third-party companies to curtail relationships with the streaming service. UMG states those were legitimate anti-piracy tactics and dismisses Escape’s claims as an attempt to distract from the case in hand.

“Having no substantive defense to UMG’s infringement claims, Escape filed several baseless counterclaims against UMG for alleged interference with contracts and business relations,” UMG writes.

“The undisputed record confirms that the communications at issue directly related to the efforts by UMG and related companies to curtail the massive infringement of its copyrights by Escape’s Grooveshark service and thus were wholly appropriate and justified.”

UMG says it is entitled to summary judgment on all matters including copyright infringement, unfair competition and Escape’s counter-claims.

“In view of the foregoing, UMG respectfully requests that this Court grant summary
judgment against Escape for common law copyright infringement of UMG’s copyrights in the Works-in-Suit, based on Escape’s invasion of its rights of reproduction, distribution, and performance, as well as for unfair competition, and for UMG on Escape’s counterclaims for tortious interference with contract and business relations,” UMG concludes.

In 2011 it appeared that Grooveshark would be able to claim safe harbor protections on pre-1972 recordings after all when a court ruled in its favor. However, in April 2013 a panel reversed the decision.

“The statutory language at issue involves two equally clear and compelling Congressional priorities: to promote the existence of intellectual property on the Internet, and to insulate pre-1972 sound recordings from federal regulation,” Justice Angela Mazzarrelli wrote.

Whether UMG will obtain their summary judgment and at what financial expense to Escape Media and Grooveshark will be developments for the months to come.

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