By Emmanuel Legrand
This is the end of the road for infringing music service Grooveshark.
Parent company Escape Media, which had been found guilty of copyright infringement by a US court, entered into a consent judgment with a permanent injunction with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.
As part of a legal settlement with the major record companies, Escape Media has agreed to terminate all operations at the infringing platform. Escape Media has also agreed to wipe its computer servers of all the record companies’ music, and surrendering ownership of its website, mobile apps and intellectual property.
Grooveshark's web site has been shut down and a notice to its users said: "Dear music fans. Today we are shutting down Grooveshark. We started out nearly ten years ago with the goal of helping fans share and discover music. But despite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation."
It added, "If you love music and respect the artists, songwriters and everyone else who makes great music possible, use a licensed service that compensates artists and other rights holders."
The statement also states that at the time of Grooveshark's launch, in 2006, "few music services provided the experience we wanted to offer and think you deserve." Tech news service Re/code argued instead that Grooveshark was never interested in licensing music from rights owners: "Contrary to the founders’ statement, paid streaming services were around for most of the company’s life, though until the last couple years they weren’t very popular. And Grooveshark wasn’t interested in a model where it licensed music and charged consumers to listen to it; instead, the company argued that it was operating something similar to YouTube, where users uploaded songs to their servers, without prompting from the company itself, which meant it could be protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."
Under terms of the settlement, Grooveshark founders Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino admitted to creating and operating an infringing music service and Escape Media agreed to significant financial penalties if the terms of the settlement are not followed. In April, a US District Court judge ruled that Grooveshark could be liable to the maximum damage fine for copyright infringement.
In a statement, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said, “This is an important victory for artists and the entire music industry. For too long, Grooveshark built its business without properly compensating the artists, songwriters and everyone else who makes great music possible. This settlement ends a major source of infringing activity.”
Speaking to Music Week in March, RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman, said that record labels always questioned Grooveshark's willingness to secure licensing deals. "I don't have the impression that they ever were very serious about negotiating deals because our companies have been interested in monetising streaming services any way they could, so if they could not come to terms [with Grooveshark] there is a serious question as to whether they were serious in the first place," said Sherman, who noted that since the court decision in favour of record labels the site had experienced "a tremendous fall in traffic."