Copyrights control over the Internet: Grooveshark’s takedown

It’s no secret that once something is on the internet, it can be a very difficult process to take it down in its entirety. This can be said about pictures, videos, data, rumors, sensitive information and even entire websites. The tenacity of the internet to secure or reproduce that which has been taken down is an amazing feat. There are many reasons groups or individuals would desire to have something erased from the world wide web, but one of the main reasons is due to copyright infringement. The internet and copyright have never truly seen eye to eye, with the invention of the internet and the ability to publish countless works at the speed of light, many worried that copyright would become difficult to uphold. This is where the internet and copyright laws butt heads so to speak. In today’s digital age, one of the most important issues facing intellectual property and especially copyright laws is the volume of copyright protect works being exploited via the internet and seemly impossible task of eliminating said infringements.

Many websites have their content regulated by DMCA notices and lawsuit take downs, but it is rare for a website to be taken down in its entirety and the copyrighted material secured. This is because although websites may have infringing material, it is rarely the direct fault of the host site. With exceptions of torrenting sites and websites geared towards illegal pirating, more often than not websites host a slew of original content with protected content mixed in. This outlines the first major problem with enforcement of copyrights on the internet, which is the difficulty that websites and copyright holders face attempting to locate and remove infringement. The internet is a vast sea of information, so singling out every infringing case is almost asking for the impossible. It is usually the case that companies must set up teams to search the web for potential infringements and even when they are found, the few remedies they can seek are not only slow and time consuming, but often inefficient.

Sometimes however when copyright holders hit, they can hit hard. Often infringement on the internet is comparable to a game of Whac-A-Mole, where it is simply hitting multiple locations as soon as an infringement pops up. Sometimes however the law finds a way to smack the mole at the source, such as the recent case involving Grooveshark. Grooveshark had made a name for itself as a great place to stream music and had more than 30+ million users streaming from their website. The problem that led to the take down came from the fact Grooveshark had not received permission or licenses for the copyrighted music that it streamed, which led to suits against the website amounting to 75 million dollars worth of damages [1]. In the end the website issued an apology and was shut down putting an end to the service. What came from this ordeal however outlines the second issue facing copyright holders, the tenacity of the internet.

Soon after the website was shut down, a new Grooveshark rose under a new domain name and host [3]. This type of backlash to copyright holders attempting to secure their content is almost automatic in nature. A famous example of this is the Pirate Bay, one of the most popular torrenting websites to date. When the website was taken down last year it was up under a new domain within hours, and officially back up within months [2]. This game of virtual Whac-A-Mole went on for many months and even now is still underway, for every time the website is taken down, it is brought back up by anonymous users hosting virtual servers. Although companies are able to bring suit and notices against infringers, the amount of time and energy that it takes is almost wasted as the material is recovered and spread almost instantly after. Copyright infringement is so common that it is borderline fool-hearted to believe that material can be recovered and protected for good once made public online. It is worth noting that the Pirate Bay is still standing, which may be a telling sign that the internet is not so easily compliant with copyright laws.

In the end it is clear that the copyright holders are in the right when attempting to enforce their legal protection. The internet is not a safe haven where all laws subsist, but what is not so easy to say is who exactly is in the wrong. Websites such as Grooveshark are clearly and knowingly infringing, so it seems obvious that the law should deal with them accordingly. What of other music websites however? When a user uploads a protected song without permission, is it the websites fault for not properly filtering the content of their site? What of the user? Is it the responsibility of the user as well to check the authenticity of the websites and files they use and download, or is that too high of a bar to set? This gray area of who should be responsible ultimately leads to the rampant infringement that occurs world wide every day. It’s simply the mindset that; Hey, everyone is doing it so whats the harm?

What the future holds is still almost as gray as the present. The internet has become such an integral part of daily life that any major changes to it are met with hostility. Net neutrality is a good example of just how hard users are willing to fight to keep their internet untouched by regulation. It isn’t likely that this problem can be resolved with heavier regulation or more legislation. For music/entertainment industries the best solution may be more involvement with websites such as Netflix or Pandora, empowering websites that provide royalties to copyright holders while simultaneously acting as a deterrent from other websites that promote piracy or infringement much like Grooveshark. The battle isn’t likely to end the way things are currently going, so it may very well be in the interest of everyone to go with the flow and establish as system in which copyright holders still maintain some sense of control over their material.

Work Cited:

[1] “Grooveshark Music Streaming Service Shuts down for Good [UPDATED] | ExtremeTech.” ExtremeTech. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

[2] Newcomb, Alyssa. “The Pirate Bay Rises Again, Back Online Two Months After Swedish Police Raid.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

[3] “Record Labels Sue ‘New’ Grooveshark, Seize Domains | TorrentFreak.”TorrentFreak RSS. N.p., 15 May 2015. Web. 17 May 2015.

Eric

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