Grooveshark Tries To Force Digital Music News To Unveil Commenter, Ignoring First Amendment
from the unfortunate dept
I work for Grooveshark. Here is some information from the trenches:To be honest, when I saw the original filing mentioning this comment, I was pretty surprised that Universal would use it in the lawsuit. After all, it's an anonymous comment on a blog. It's pure hearsay, without any actual evidence that the commenter actually works at Grooveshark. It's completely useless as evidence.
We are assigned a predetermined ammount of weekly uploads to the system and get a small extra bonus if we manage to go above that (not easy).The assignments are assumed as direct orders from the top to the bottom, we don't just volunteer to "enhance" the Grooveshark database.
All search results are monitored and when something is tagged as "not available", it get's queued up to our lists for upload. You have to visualize the database in two general sections: "known" stuff and "undiscovered/indie/underground". The "known" stuff is taken care internally by uploads. Only for the "undiscovered" stuff are the users involved as explained in some posts above. Practically speaking, there is not much need for users to upload a major label album since we already take care of this on a daily basis.
Of course, you might think that Universal Music would then issue a subpoena to discover who the commenter was. But... instead Grooveshark issued a subpoena (pdf and embedded below) seeking to identify the commenter. This is also strange. If UMG was able to identify the individual, then Grooveshark would find out that info. But if (as appears to be the case so far) UMG does nothing, the claims by this individual are useless in the lawsuit anyway.
Either way, Paul Resnikoff from Digital Music News worried about the subpoena, as DMN has a policy of not revealing its anonymous commenters (and often using them as sources). So, he decided to push back, noting a few key points. Public Citizen's Paul Levy recently agreed to represent Resnikoff in this matter and sent a letter to Grooveshark's parent company (embedded below) detailing why Grooveshark should stop barking up this particular tree. Beyond the First Amendment issues, the right of a journalist to protect sources, and the uselessness of the original comment in the first place, there's also the simple fact that DMN doesn't retain comment logs for very long, and has no useful information in response to the subpoena anyway.
That letter also highlights that Grooveshark is also interested in a much more recent comment on a blog post about Grooveshark's subpoena, in which a commenter (in a rather difficult to read manner) spins another conspiracy theory, suggesting that the original comment was a setup against Grooveshark by supporters of the lawsuit. To be honest, this comment seems about as credible as the original comment that kicked this off.
Whatever you might think of the Grooveshark lawsuit, this action by Grooveshark's lawyers seems like a mistake and overkill. Not only is it unlikely to turn up anything useful, going on a fishing expedition against anonymous commenters on a blog opens up a huge host of problems around First Amendment issues, which it appears Grooveshark either failed to consider, or doesn't much care about. That seems like a mistake.