This is a battle that appears to be bleeding beyond the major labels.
We’ve seen the markings of a broader artist and industry backlash, and now, there’s this. The sharpest attack on Grooveshark is now coming from TuneCore CEO Jeff Price, an artist champion who spends most of this time fighting against the majors. Yet on Friday, Price tore into the company for failing to compensate his artists and blatantly exploiting legal loopholes. In fact, Price is now urging his massive indie and DIY community to boycott the company, and directly contact Grooveshark advertisers to pressure change.
Here’s Price’s argument, as first published on Tunecore’s blog (reprinted with permission)…
“Let me start by saying I don’t like Grooveshark. Actually, in my opinion, they knowingly and willingly use a legal loophole to steal from artists and songwriters.”
“Even worse, they try to defend themselves by having the attitude of ‘hey, we love artists and all we are doing is trying to support them.’ What a load of crap. And as many of you may know, they are getting sued left and right for copyright infringement.
So what does Grooveshark do? When you click the ‘about’ link on their website, a little pop-up box appears that says:
‘Grooveshark is the world’s largest on-demand music streaming and discovery service.’
What this means is that anyone can go to Grooveshark, and, for FREE, type in the name of an artist and then play any recording by that artist in the Grooveshark system. Users can make playlists, stop, start, skip and basically listen to what they want, when they want, with little-to-no restrictions.
And guess what, allowing anyone to listen to anything they want with basically no restrictions got them a whole bunch of users. How many? According to their little pop-up box:
‘Over 30 million users flock to Grooveshark…’
Wow. 30 million users that ‘flock to Grooveshark,’ and, again, I quote from their own site:
‘…to listen to their favorite music, create playlists, discover new tunes, and share it all with friends via Facebook, Twitter, social news sites, and more.’
Well, when you have 30 million people coming to your website, you have a lot of web traffic. This means you can start making money by charging entities to advertise on your site. After all, you reach tens of millions of consumers.
Just think of all the money Grooveshark makes by selling ads.
There is just one really big, big problem: they don’t get licenses and don’t pay the artists, the labels and/or the songwriters for the use of the music that’s making them tons of money. I can assure you, 99% of the hundreds of thousands of TuneCore Artists whose music is in Grooveshark have not been paid a single penny.
Said more simply: ARTISTS SHOULD BE PAID FOR THE USE OF THEIR MUSIC!
In order for Grooveshark to pull off their ‘aren’t-we-so-clever-f**k-the-artist’ scheme, they use copyright law in a way it was not intended to be used.
First, they built technology that turns music fans into unwitting conspirators to make Grooveshark money. As the recent UK Wired article on Grooveshark explains it:
‘Grooveshark’s 35 million members are able to upload their own tracks to the streaming service’s music library. This legally questionable practice means that Grooveshark often has to deal with take-down orders (under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) to remove infringing contents within a specified time period, however the company is protected from being sued provided it complies with the order. This is the same defence that YouTube uses for video uploads.’
In other words, Grooveshark is not putting the music into its own system, ‘users’ are. Therefore, Grooveshark gets to just shrug its shoulders and say: ‘Gosh, it’s not legally Grooveshark’s fault that all this music is illegally available for anyone to listen to for free on our site.’
Next, the way US copyright law works, the copyright holder (meaning the artist, songwriter or label) has to go to Grooveshark and search for their recording or song. If found, the copyright holder must notify Grooveshark that the song and/or recording is in the Grooveshark service without authorization. Only after that notification occurs does Grooveshark have to remove the song or recording. And once it takes it down, it does not mean that it will not re-appear tomorrow as some other poor, unsuspecting user falls into Groovesharks scheme and re-uploads the very same recording…
Some scumbag saw this legal loophole and must have thought something like:
My meal ticket is in. Here is a way to make a lot of money by using music without having to pay artists, labels or songwriters. First, I’ll get music fans to upload the music so we can’t be sued. Next, I’ll do nothing until the copyright holder contacts me. At the same time I’ll sell ad space from all the web traffic I’m getting (whoo-hoo world, free music!!). Then I’ll keep all the money and call myself something cool like ‘Grooveshark.’ If music gets taken down, not to worry. If the music is popular, some other music fan will most likely put it up again not realizing he or she is hurting the very artist he or she loves. Oh, and f**k the artist, we aren’t going to pay them anything for the use of their music.
I actually met with people at Grooveshark a few times. You think politicians don’t provide straight answers? Wait until you talk to these guys. I’ve never experienced anyone trying to so hard to convince me that 2+2 does not equal 4. They wanted TuneCore to enter into a deal with them, but the whole thing made me sick.
And I appear not to be the only one reaching this conclusion–check out this CNET article titled: ‘Grooveshark email: How we built a music service without, um, paying for music’ – Grooveshark wanted to use unlicensed music to build a huge online following and then deal with the labels, according to company e-mails entered into court records.
And just when you think it can’t get any more slimy, check out these alleged emails written and sent by Grooveshark Chairman Sina Simantob – copy and pasted from the CNET article (you can read the entire article in CNET here):
‘The only thing that I want to add is this: we are achieving all this growth without paying a dime to any of the labels,’ wrote Sina Simantob, Grooveshark’s chairman, in an e-mail on Dec. 1, 2009. The note was addressed to ‘Josh’—presumably Josh Greenberg, one of the company’s co-founders and CTO. ‘My favorite story related to our case is the story of a kid who appears in front of the judge for sentencing for the crime of having murdered both his parents saying judge have mercy on me cuz I am an orphan.’
‘In our case,’ Simantob continued, ‘we use the label’s songs till we get a 100 (million) uniques, by which time we can tell the labels who is listening to their music, where, and then turn around and charge them for the very data we got from them, ensuring that what we pay them in total for streaming is less than what they pay us for data mining. Let’s keep this quite [sic] for as long as we can.’
Oh and it gets better. Check out this email Sina allegedly sent to a venture capitalist when he was trying to raise millions of dollars for his nifty little company.
Again, from the CNET article:
‘In an e-mail to a venture capitalist in April 2010, Simantob appears to acknowledge that this is the strategy employed by Grooveshark.’
‘We bet the company on the fact that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission,’ Simantob wrote in an e-mail to Andrew Lipsher, a partner at Greycroft, a venture capital firm.’
And Grooveshark LOVES to rub artists’ faces in what they are doing — using their music and paying them nothing. Watch the little slickly produced video they have on their website, complete with screaming fans and an inside look at the Grooveshark offices, where you can see all their computers, ping-pong tables and neat-o ‘hipster’ décor bought from profits derived from using artists’ music without paying them a cent. They even made mouse pads and t-shirts with their logo all over them and set the entire video to a fun little soundtrack that hops and skips along trying to show us all how they cool they are as they smile and steal.
Think about that next time you are trying to scrape together enough money to get gas for the tour van. Make a new logo for them: Grooveshark giving the middle finger to musicians.
My opinion: Grooveshark is a fish rotting from the head down. The people running it are immoral and could care less about who and/or what they hurt as long as they make money. They make the major labels look like saints.
From my perspective, there is no possible way anyone could seriously work at that place and state they truly care about musicians and songwriters (unless they are so delusional or drank so much of their own Kool-Aid they lost touch with reality).
So what can you do if your recordings or songs are on Grooveshark without your authorization?
Number one, tell your fans NOT TO USE THEM. Start a Twitter ‘Boycott Grooveshark’ campaign. Even better, learn who is advertising with Grooveshark and then tweet, email and/or call those companies and tell them to stop giving Grooveshark money.
Things are tough enough as it is, do artist really need this too?
What’s even more upsetting is Grooveshark, the anti-artist entity that pays NOTHING to artists and apparently does not believe they should be paid for the use of their music, gets a free ride from the press while Spotify, the entity that provides the same service as Grooveshark but actually pays artists, gets lambasted in the press for not paying enough.
Don’t we all think that making money off an artist’s music while paying the artist NOTHING for the use of it is worse than a company that got licenses and pays something?
I’m all for technology reinventing things and disrupting things, but do you really need to kick the artist in the face to do it?”