An admission of 'serious mistakes' and a formal apology is all that's left of Grooveshark, the music streaming service beloved by 35 million users, which has finally lost its battle with the record industry.
The site, which was founded in 2006 and launched in 2007, allowed people to upload digital music files for others to stream. It was originally positioned as a legal alternative to peer-to-peer networks like LimeWire, but was quickly targeted by the major music labels after it failed to secure licenses for the music it was using.
The company argued that it was no different to YouTube - where any infringing songs are taken down swiftly once a complaint is received. But while songs were often re-uploaded immediately on Grooveshark, YouTube has multiple systems in place to automatically take down songs that had previously been complained about.
In the end, however, these details didn't matter. The courts were shown evidence that the company's co-founders had asked their employees to upload thousands of songs in full knowledge that they had no license to. As a result, last week a US district court judge told Grooveshark's parent company, Escape Media, that it would be liable for up to $736 million in damages if found guilty of copyright violations.
So Grooveshark made a deal. Under the terms, the company doesn't have to pay rightsholders anything, but must shut down the site, wipe the servers and formally apologise to the industry. If the terms are breached, it will have to pay $75 million.
If you visit Grooveshark.com now, all you'll see is a few paragraphs of text. "Despite [the] best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes," it reads. "We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation."
It's impressive that Grooveshark lasted as long as it did, and perhaps some of that may be down to the fact that the music industry has shifted tactics in recent years from pursuing pirates to offering compelling legal alternatives. Below the apology, the message notes that, listing a few and adding: "At that time of our launch, few music services provided the experience we wanted to offer and think you deserve. Fortunately, that's no longer the case."
The message ends: "It has been a privilege getting to know so many of you and enjoying great music together. Thank you for being such passionate fans. Yours in music: Your friends at Grooveshark."
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