Letâ€™s start by taking a look at Grooveshark. Universal Music Group (UMG) filed a complaint in Manhattan District Court on November 18, 2011 against Escape Media and five of its executives alleging that Grooveshark engaged in a plethora of infringing conduct. According to the complaint, â€śEscape publically touts the fact that it has a catalog of 15 million sound recordingsâ€¦ by top commercial artists such as Bob Marley, Elton John, Jay-Z, the Black Eyed Peas, and Lady Gaga.â€ť
According to UMG, â€śEscape does not have a license or other authorization [for the use of] the vast majority of the sound recordings contained on the site.â€ť Most problematically for Grooveshark is the fact that allegedly, senior officers â€śpersonally uploaded thousands of infringing files and have instructed their employees to do the same.â€ť Now hereâ€™s the interesting part â€“ the 45 page complaint cites as an exhibit an anonymous blog post from digitalmusicnews.com that if true, is indicative of some of the most unscrupulous behavior Iâ€™ve ever heard of: that Grooveshark employees are assigned a weekly quota of songs to upload as well as incentives for surpassing it.Â I just have one question for Escape/Grooveshark: What were you thinking?! If these allegations turn out to be true, their â€śits better to ask for forgiveness than permissionâ€ť mantra will surely be frowned upon by the court.
Now, Megaupload. Ah, where to begin? In case you havenâ€™t heard by now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) seized the Megaupload domain and about $50 million in assets, dubbing the two corporations and seven individuals charged in the indictment part of a â€śMega Conspiracy.â€ť The Mega Conspiracy â€“ Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited, along with Finn Batato, Julius Bencko, Sven Echternach, Mathias Ortmann, Andrus Nomm, and Bram van der Kolk â€“ was charged by the DOJ with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Oh, sweet vindication. All I can say is that itâ€™s about time these people get what they deserve (if the allegations are true, of course). Itâ€™s been ridiculously cumbersome for copyright owners to tread in the waters of user generated content safe harbors provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Even now its bitter sweet because the damage has been done: The DOJ estimated that the Mega Conspiracy has reaped benefits in excess of $175 million from their criminal activity while causing more than a half a billion dollars in losses to copyright owners.
The system is broken! Isnâ€™t it time to revaluate our treatment of copyrights when it takes this level of infringement to result in indictments and actionable lawsuits? Iâ€™m just going to say it â€“ I think the DMCA (while entirely well-intentioned) has crippled copyright owners. Granted, part of the claims against Megaupload includes ignoring DMCA takedown notices, but should it really take infringement on scales as large as this to get noticed? Iâ€™m not suggesting that we should be targeting consumers/end-users of copyrighted content for streaming a few songs, or even downloading a few albums. In fact, I think that will just add to the problem. And I, too, believe that SOPA/PIPA is overbroad. But we need a SOPA/PIPA â€“ one that is responsibly drafted â€“ to cure the problem of widespread infringement and mass of unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted works.