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Music Beat

Grooveshark once had 35 million users; now, the music-streaming service is dead

Say goodbye to Grooveshark, an online music-streaming service that once boasted 35 million users who listened to songs for free. The site surrendered following a series of massive lawsuits filed by major record labels.

Grooveshark shut down Thursday in compliance with a settlement agreement over copyright infringement claims. The company said in a statement that it has agreed to halt all operations, delete copyrighted material and give up ownership of its site, including smartphone apps. It also agreed to give up its patents and copyrights.

“We started out nearly 10 years ago with the goal of helping fans share and discover music,” founders Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino wrote in an apology posted to the site. “But despite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service.

“That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservations.”

Since its launch in 2007, Grooveshark has been a nuisance to record labels, hosting millions of songs without permission. Over the past several years, many labels — including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Bros. Records — have sued Grooveshark’s parent company, Escape Media Group, for copyright infringement.

Until recently, Escape Media leaned on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that shields sites that host copyrighted material uploaded by users. But last year, a federal judge said the company was guilty of copyright infringement because it had encouraged its employees to upload songs to the site. It was facing up to $736 million in statutory damages, Reuters reported.

Escape Media decided to settle this week, calling it quits.

As The New York Times noted:

“Grooveshark’s demise comes after those of Napster, LimeWire, Grokster and others, each of which were sued by the big record companies for hosting free music without permission.”

The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group for the record labels, called Grooveshark’s death “an important victory for artists and the entire music industry.”

“For too long, Grooveshark built its business without properly compensating the artists, songwriters and everyone else who makes great music possible,” the association said in a statement. “This settlement ends a major source of infringing activity.”

The RIAA noted that Escape Media agreed to “significant financial penalties if the terms of the settlement are not followed” — $75 million, according to Variety.

“At the time of our launch, few music services provided the experience we wanted to offer — and think you deserve,” Grooveshark said in its apology. “Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. There are now hundreds of fan friendly, affordable services available for you to choose from, including Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, Beats Music, Rhapsody and Rdio, among many others.

“If you love music and respect the artists, songwriters and everyone else who makes great music possible, use a licensed service that compensates artists and other rights holders.”

As Spin noted, Tidal — the new streaming service launched by Jay Z, Beyonce, Madonna and other music stars — was not mentioned in the Grooveshark statement.

© 2015, The Washington Post

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