British ISPs Ordered to Block File-Sharing Websites – But What About Grooveshark?

Late last week BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media and three other UK
broadband providers were ordered by the high court to block access to the music
and movie file-sharing websites Kickass Torrents (KAT), H33T and Fenopy. As the
ISPs named in the court order account for about 94 percent of the market, this means
these sites will be unavailable to the vast majority of the British population.

It’s the third such ruling issued by Mr Justice Arnold, who
previously has ordered UK ISPs to block the Pirate Bay and Newzbin1. Sure,
there is no dearth of other sites peddling unlicensed music and movies – and no
doubt hardcore pirates will move on to them –but there’s certainly something to be said for making it
less convenient for casual illegal downloaders to do so, as well as cutting off
a revenue source of these sites (Newzbin2 decided to close last year citing
financial problems following the legal action that was taken against its
predecessor Newzbin1).

But more significant is the fact that Arnold, in his most
recent ruling, not only concluded the sites’ take-down policy for pirated
material wasn’t effective – he also said it was overly burdensome to expect
rights holders to continually monitor the sites, and endlessly submit URLs for
their music and movies to be removed.

“This means that every single pirate site similar to this is
now liable to be blocked even if their takedown policy is effective.”

Price, director of piracy analysis at online security and anti-piracy
consultancy NetNames, told the Guardian.

Does this mean Grooveshark could be the next site on the chopping

After all, PRS for Music, the
British songwriters’ collection society, has not licensed the music-streaming
site – which means only music written by people who don’t belong to any
collection society at all can possibly be legally available on it.

A little over a year ago I attempted to remove my music from Grooveshark, spending countless hours and weeks, copying and pasting URLs into takedown
notices – only for my music reappear immediately under new URLs. From what I
can tell the particular song I focused on is now finally no longer available on
the site (which could be because I recounted my experience in an article for the
Guardian) – apart from where the title of the song is misspelled – but other songs that
I’ve co-written feature on it.  And so do plenty of my fellow British
songwriters’ material.

Two quick searches show Adele features heavily (Paul
Epworth, co-writer of some of her biggest hits, is also British). So does
British artist James Blake, who is signed to Universal – and no major
label, representing a large part of the music on the site, has licensed Grooveshark.

And what about Google and its YouTube?

These are questions that we’re sure both the PRS and
the British record industry trade body, the BPI, are mulling over. We’ll be
watching this space with interest…

Written while taking in the feverish melancholy of James
Blake’s new single Retrograde.

41 Responses

  1. Joe

    Helliene–would love to hear your music. Got a link?

  2. question

    Welcome to the DMN team! Looking forward to reading your articles.
    I am kind of curious about your experience with Grooveshark. If you’re the song cowriter, can you send takedowns for master recordings you don’t own but wrote the song in question? Can songwriters do that? That would be very interesting.

      • Angry Songwriter

        That’s actually a very valid question… Do you own any portion of the masters recordings, Helienne? Seeing that you were the co-writer, I highly doubt that you were authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner. In your Guardian article, you mention that the song has been featured on several compilations and remixed as well. It’s entirely possible that the sublicense off a compilation or remix (which as a co-writer you would probably never even know about) authorized another individual for upload to their site… Guess just another mystery of the DMCA, eh?

        • EFF

          Hi Hellienne – Looking forward to your contributions on DMN. I’m a little concerned that you haven’t addressed these questions on this first article of yours though..

          I’m excited you bring an active musician’s background to the table with your journalism, but isn’t this a simple question to answer? Why would a songwriter who does not own the masters of the track(s) in question have the right to issue a DMCA takedown notice? If you, the songwriter, aren’t authorized to issue these takedowns, isn’t that abuse of the DMCA takedown system?

          Please just entertain this line of questioning so I can follow the thread of the rest of the article.

          • sorry

            There is a strict policy on this site about disrupting narratives. Not gonna happen.

          • Helienne

            Happy to see the discussions, and apologies for the late reply – didn’t have a chance to look at the thread till now. A track has two separate copyright areas – the recording rights owner and the publishing copyright owner (for the composition/song). Both sides have to give permission, and both can file a takedown notice. I hope that clarifies the issue.

          • Visitor

            Obviously a track has two separate copyright areas… That’s not the question. Even if what you say is true, you are a cowriter…Let’s break it down like this: Say you wrote this with one other person and you also have a publisher administering your works, that means you’re control of the just the publishing alone is split three ways. You then have to assume that there are at least a couple individuals in control of the master copyright. So you’re talking at the very least 5 entities involved in the composition. So when you filed these takedowns did you receive permission (as you mentioned is necessary) from all owners of the copyright? Both master and publishing?

          • tony

            i doubt linda perry could take down any of the taylor swift songs she wrote. sidenote: did linda perry write any taylor swift songs? (i just assumed she did).

          • Helienne

            For a song to be licensed, every rights holder has to give permission. For example, if a company wants to use a song in a commercial, all rights holders have to say yes – if one doesn’t, then they can’t use it. Hence why I don’t need permission from the other rights holders to file a takedown notice.
            Incidentally, the artist/co-writer on the track in question had not licensed Grooveshark, and never will.

          • Visitor

            Actually what you are referring to is common in sync licensing, that same theory does not apply in this situation. Was that artist signed to a label? What if the label had licensed with Grooveshark?

  3. Ghost of Rick Ross

    One problem with your entire analysis: Grooveshark hasn’t been proven illegal in a court of law.

      • Ghost of Rick Ross

        A court could very well prove that Grooveshark is 100% legal: in fact there’s already indication this will happen.

      • ...

        Well, that was easy.
        You can say “yet” about anything.

        iTunes hasn’t been proven to be illegal. Yet. So easy.

        • Visitor

          One of the most notorious websites can be compared to iTunes because…?

    • Visitor

      “Grooveshark hasn’t been proven illegal in a court of law”
      Yet — could happen any day.

      • Vis

        grooveshark may very well win its cases in the U.S. it also very well may not.

        Neither possibility has much to say about what the UK legal system (or the ROW for that matter) can do.

        • Visitor

          Bottomline is they abuse the DMCA, and that’s going to end sooner rather than later.
          Goes for Google, too.

          • Vis

            completely agree with you. The DMCA will be tightened up over time, both by the courts and legislation – and google is such a large and respected player that they will influence both, probably more so than the labels and rights organizations.
            The idea that piracy can be a legitimate business model died with napster. you won’t find legitimate businesses fighting to for the right to make piracy their primary business. But there is still a ton of money in it. So you will find plenty of legitimate businesses taking what they can.

  4. Visitor


    good point…

    • Vis

      google has played it very smart with the content gatekeepers and governments around the world.
      they have done enough, and will continue to do enough, that it won’t really affect googles business.
      sure maybe’ll they filter more stuff in such and such country for a while. but they ain’t getting turned off unless they are the one flipping the switch.
      compairing Google to Grooveshark is like comparing your cousin that joined a gang and shot a kid for his sneakers to your brother who takes a 5 spot from mom’s wallet every now and then. One of them will grow out of it. The other has a lot of work to do if they ever want to be part of civil society again.

      • Visitor

        “but they [Google] ain’t getting turned off unless they are the one flipping the switch”

        Google’s just a company, and companies come and go.

        • vis

          No. People come and go.
          Companies (and Disney Copyrights) live forever.

          • Visitor

            “Companies (and Disney Copyrights) live forever”
            Disney would not have survived if they had behaved like Google and MegaUpload.
            Google don’t adapt, they’re not in sync with their time anymore, their business model is abuse, and their philosophy can be summed up in Eric Schmidt’s statement:
            “There is what I call the Creepy Line, and the Google policy about a lot of these things is to get right up to the Creepy Line, but not cross it.”
            Eric Schmidt

  5. Visitor

    So the rest of the world gets access to the entire universe of published content out there for free, and UK citizens get to pay for access to less. Yay you guys!

    • Visitor

      “So the rest of the world gets access to the entire universe of published content out there for free”
      On the contrary — a new, internationally coordinated war on piracy started last year.

      Here are some of the first initiatives:
      Blocked piracy sites all over Europe… 6 Strikes in the US… fines and prison sentences in Japan… fines in New Zealand… fines and confiscation in Russia… huge fines to illegal file-sharing site admins… new measures on their way in France & elsewhere… lots of lockers & torrent sites shut down after the fall of MegaUpload… growing pressure on credit card companies, Google and others to completely cut off criminal sites.
      Much more to follow…

  6. Dee MCA

    I will never understand how an artist -are you one really?- can find himself in a self-hurting loop of fighting to get less exposure. And be happy with the outdated geographical licensing model nightmare taking away so many resources to actually promoting them…

    • Visitor

      Exposure? 🙂
      Pardon my French, but who the f*** cares about exposure?
      Writing music is probably the most lovely thing you can do on this planet, but it’s also a business!
      The professional songwriters who create the hits we all love obviously have to find new jobs if we don’t pay her/him.
      Which means no new music for you and your children.

  7. Jason Miles

    The bottom line behind all of this is It’s supposed to be about the music and in 2013 with all of these sites it’s still about the money and how the few can grab it while the rest get nothing. Whomever says “this will be good for artists,songwriters etc” is flat out lying. That is the sad thing-How did this whole thing turn into dealing with the interests of the few

    • Vis

      It has never changed. It’s always been the few that take advantage of the many.
      The internet has been a great equalizer in many aspects, but it’s still just another business channel.

  8. BobbyGiggz @BobbyGiggz

    Youtube pays fees/royalties to PRS and PPL.
    It may be a crappy deal (we will never know becos there is a NDA covering the contract) but its a deal non-the-less.

    So leave Youtube out of it. Shut down the other bast*ards, or make them sign up for Licensing and royalty fees.

    • Visitor

      “So leave Youtube out of it”
      No, YouTube is not legitimate yet.
      They still actively encourage their customers to steal other people’s property (search for Photoshop on YouTube, and the autocomplete recommends ‘Photoshop CS6 full version free download’, ‘Photoshop serial number’, etc.).
      And Google Search is still the web’s leading piracy search engine, torrent tracker and portal to organized crime.

    • Helienne

      YouTube does pay PRS, but it does not pay PPL. Labels do their own deals for the master recording rights online. YouTube also doesn’t pay STIM (the Swedish version of PRS), for example, even though YouTube is available in Sweden.

  9. Visitor

    Hey Helienne,

    Welcome to the DMN world! Would you mind referencing the track(s) you were having issues with? Would love to learn more about your problems with takedowns!

  10. hey

    I hope someone reached out to the guy from Suffocation who posted the video of him buying his record. You can hear “Hey Ho” by The Lumineers in the background and YOU JUST KNOW HE DIDNT PAY FOR THAT.