EMI Sues Grooveshark. EMI Licenses Grooveshark. EMI Sues Grooveshark

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It was hailed as a progressive partnership, a bold step for a struggling major label and a vision for the future.

“We think services like Grooveshark offer great music discovery options for fans,” EMI Music’s global head of digital business development Mark Piibe said in October of 2009, just months after trying to sue Grooveshark into oblivion.  “In turn, Grooveshark offers a new revenue stream for our artists and will help us learn more about how we can better connect different types of fans with artists.”

That seemed to thaw the ice a bit, and put Grooveshark ahead of Spotify in the US.  It also eventually led to a deal with indie consortium Merlin the following year.

Then, things got really complicated, on both sides of the deal.  As of Thursday, separately-acquired EMI Music Publishing has joined the major label groups in suing Grooveshark, effectively cancelling its very significant licensing nod.  EMI’s recording unit has yet to be formally acquired by Universal Music Group, though barring a late-stage roadblock, EMI Music will be rolled into a growing (and separate) UMG suit against Grooveshark.

The Publishing complaint was filed in the US District Court in Manhattan, and paints Grooveshark as a bad licensing buddy.  “[Grooveshark parent] Escape Media has not made a single royalty payment to EMI, nor provided a single accounting statement,” the suit alleges.  In comments to the New York Times, Grooveshark pointed to a “contract dispute.”

The development points another barrel at Grooveshark’s head, but also puts pressure on other big partners.  That includes Merlin, which licensed Grooveshark in 2010 but appears to be facing pressure from member labels.  Also potentially vulnerable is Mercedes-Benz, which joined forces with Indaba on a high-profile remixing project last year.  The carmaker has not responded to multiple requests from Digital Music News on the deal’s status, and Indaba has also declined any comment.