MANHATTAN (CN) – UMG Recordings claims Escape Media Group and its top officers have committed mass copyright violations through “illegally upload(ing) thousands of infringing sound recordings to the Grooveshark website and have instructed their employees to do the same.”
The complaint states: “This case relates to a business that is engaged in the willful infringement of a massive number of copyrights over the Internet. Defendant Escape Media Inc. (‘Escape’) owns and operates a pirate website, www.grooveshark.com (the ‘Grooveshark website’), through which it provides anyone with an Internet connection with free and unfettered access to infringing copies of ‘any song in the world.’
“Escape publicly touts the fact that it has a catalog of 15 million sound recordings
available on demand including the most popular sound recordings by top commercial artists such as The Jackson Five, Bob Marley, Elton John, Jay-Z, the Black Eyed Peas, and Lady Gaga. Critically, however, Escape does not have a license or other authorization from UMG or from the owners of the copyrights on the vast majority of the sound recordings contained on the site.
“Escape has brashly acknowledged the unauthorized and infringing nature of its
business. Escape’s senior director readily admitted that Escape “bet the company on the fact that it is easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission” from record labels to exploit their copyrighted sound recordings. See Exhibit A (emphasis added). The same director bragged that Escape’s meteoric growth is sustained without ‘paying a dime to any of the [record] labels.’ See Exhibit B. Escape knows that its conduct is unlawful. Indeed, in an email to UMG, Escape openly admitted that it ‘owes UMG for the use of its valuable content.’ See Exhibit C.
“Escape’s brazen decision to infringe UMG’s copyrighted sound recordings is
driven by its awareness that the life-blood of its business is its ability to offer users all of the most popular copyrighted sound recordings. Accordingly, to ensure that all recordings are available, Escape’s senior officers personally have illegally uploaded thousands of infringing sound recordings to the Grooveshark website and have instructed their employees to do the same. Escape’s business records establish unequivocally that the sound recordings illegally copied by Escape’s executives and employees include thousands of well known sound recordings owned by UMG – and it is these sound recordings that form the basis of this lawsuit.
“In a recent blog posting, a Grooveshark employee freely acknowledged that
Escape’s senior officers have personally participated in, directed, and authorized these acts of infringement: ‘We are assigned a predetermined amount of weekly uploads to the system and get a small extra bonus if we manage to go above that (not easy). The assignments are assumed as direct order for the top to the bottom, we don’t just volunteer to “enhance” the Grooveshark database … Are the above legal or ethical? Of course not … If the labels or their lawyers can’t figure out how to
stop it, then I don’t feel bad for having a job. It’s tough times.’
“These flagrant acts of infringement by Escape and its senior officers and
employees reflect the essence of Escape’s business and culture. Escape and its management have adopted a business model that is premised on massive willful copyright infringement. As a direct result of this egregious and willful conduct, thousands of UMG’s most popular sound recordings are infringed daily on a massive scale. The harm to UMG, which invests millions of dollars and enormous creative energies to produce and exploit its copyrighted works, is manifest and irreparable.”
In addition to Escape Media, a Delaware corporation based in Gainesville, Fla., UMG sued Escape co-founder and CEO Samuel Tarantino, co-founder and chief technology officer Joshua Greenberg, senior vice president Paul Geller, vice president for public relations Benjamin Westermann-Clark, vice president for product development John Ashenden, software developer Chanel Munezero, and “quality assurance” employee Nikola Arabadjiev.
UMG demands an injunction and punitive damages for copyright violations of at least 1,809 listed tunes.
UMG is represented in Federal Court by Andrew Bart with Jenner & Block.