The Silver Lining On The Grooveshark Ruling: At Least It Didn't Screw Up The DMCA Safe Harbors

from the it's-something dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about the easy summary judgment issued against Grooveshark, in which the actions of the company's founders completely doomed the company in the ruling. As we noted, there were some interesting legal arguments for an operation like Grooveshark, but they were all completely undermined by the founders' actions. Jon Healey, over at the LA Times has a good take on all of this noting that the silver lining in all of this is that, at the very least, nothing in this ruling screws up the DMCA safe harbors. There were legitimate concerns -- as with many such cases -- that a court would get somewhat blinded by the "but piracy!" claims and twist things around to rule in a way that would screw up the DMCA safe harbors. However, by having founders whose activity was damning in its own right, the court didn't even have to get into a discussion of the DMCA at all. It wasn't even an issue.
...from the standpoint of other tech companies, at least the pain is going to be confined to Grooveshark and its founders, not to other companies that operate online platforms. Griesa's ruling is just the latest reminder that such companies can't hope to be protected by the DMCA if their own staff infringes.
This was a very serious concern. As law professor Eric Goldman has pointed out repeatedly, there's real copyright law and file sharing copyright law, and the two aren't always related. Basically, because what many companies are doing feels wrong to some judges, they'll often twist and contort the law to call what's happening illegal, even if a straightforward reading of the statute would suggest otherwise. See the Supreme Court's ruling in the Aereo case as just one example.

And there was a real risk here that the same sort of thing would happen. If Grooveshark's founders and employees weren't uploading a ton of music themselves, there was a fairly legitimate argument that the same sort of DMCA safe harbors that protect YouTube would also protect Grooveshark. But there was certainly a difference in feel. Many people just instinctively felt that Grooveshark's activities must be bad, without understanding the full legal arguments behind them. So, in some ways, while it's going to hurt Grooveshark's founders financially (big time) in this case, the fact that they were so over the top in their activities might actually be a good thing for the law.

And, it might have some carry over benefits as well. If Grooveshark had prevailed, and the DMCA safe harbors held that the company was not directly liable for infringement done by its users, it would become Exhibit A from the legacy recording industry for why the DMCA safe harbors would need to be gutted by the upcoming attempt at copyright reform. So, in some ways, it appears that the ruling this week might actually be innovators and the DMCA safe harbors dodging a bullet.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, safe harbors
Companies: escape media, grooveshark

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2014 @ 5:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: What safe harbors?

    Let me guess, you're a dorky freetard, right?

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