The RIAA have been killing file-sharing services for more than a decade, but despite spending a fortune closing Napster, Grokster and LimeWire, music is even more widely available online than ever before, just from different sources.
BitTorrent aside, some file-sharers have turned to so-called YouTube-downloaders – software and services that rip music from YouTube videos and convert them to carry-anywhere MP3s. Needless to say, the recording labels don’t like these either.
Unfortunately YouTube videos carry low-bitrate audio and for many the quality just doesn’t come up to scratch, but there is another YouTube-like service that doesn’t have that problem. Grooveshark carries a huge range of high-quality user-uploaded music ready for web-based streaming. However, in common with its video-focused counterpart, Grooveshark doesn’t permit downloading of MP3s. Not as standard at least.
Enter Groovejaar, a brand new piece of open source music downloading software that essentially takes Grooveshark and turns it into LimeWire, but with super-fast downloads, great quality MP3s – and absolutely no malware.
The software itself is small at just 1.4mb and requires Java to run. A few seconds later and Groovejaar is downloaded, installed and ready to go.
As can be seen from the screenshot below, we immediately searched for music by file-sharing favorite Dan Bull, but the other feature illustrated is “Get Top Songs” which shows Grooveshark’s most-popular tracks of the day or month.
Groovejaar is very easy to use and has just a few user settings to contend with. The most important initially is to set a hard drive location where music can be downloaded to. After that users can entertain themselves with different skins and an option for multiple simultaneous downloads. Users can also pull in their own playlists from external sites.
But perhaps the burning question is this – is it legal?
To discover that we should perhaps consider Grooveshark’s legal status first. Generally the RIAA has a problem with Grooveshark – they say that the service is unlicensed and the implication is that this means it’s illegal. Grooveshark disagree.
“So let’s set the record straight: there is nothing illegal about what Grooveshark offers to consumers,” said Senior VP of Information Products at Grooveshark, Paul Geller, earlier this year.
“Laws come from Congress. Licenses come from businesses,” he explained. “Grooveshark is completely legal because we comply with the laws passed by Congress, but we are not licensed by every label (yet).”
Geller noted that as long as Grooveshark is DMCA-compliant and responds appropriately to takedown requests, the service is legal under US law. In effect, Grooveshark is just like YouTube, only without the videos. Someone complains about user-uploaded content on either site, it gets taken down.
Groovejaar doesn’t carry any of its own content, it’s all carried by Grooveshark, so its creator is physically unable to comply with any takedown requests. The ‘Get Top Songs’ feature may indeed pull up a lot of unlicensed content, but those lists are maintained by Grooveshark. In this sense the Groovejaar client is ‘dumb’ and content agnostic.
Some might argue that because it provides downloads rather than streaming then somehow the legalities change. This is often a controversial point but really it shouldn’t be. Whether it’s a video ‘streamed’ from YouTube or a track ‘streamed’ from Grooveshark, it still gets downloaded to the user’s computer. The only difference is the length of time it stays there.
The situation can be summed up as follows. Watching infringing content on YouTube is comparable to doing the same on Grooveshark. It might still be illegal, but people are never sued for watching or listening to unauthorized content on YouTube and they won’t be sued for doing the same with Grooveshark or Groovejaar. Not least because they’re impossible to track legally.
If the copyright holders don’t want their stuff on either service, it is their responsibility to take it down. That’s the way it works.
Finally, for Firefox fans there is another way of downloading MP3s from Grooveshark. The Groove Shredder plugin works nicely but rather than being a stand-alone app it embeds itself in the Grooveshark website.