When a digital music startup distributes massive amounts of unlicensed music and fails to pay for the music it has licensed, most of us know what happens next: They go out of business. Not so with Grooveshark.
The popular P2P streaming site, which claims 30 million active users (over twice Spotify’s footprint) responded to lawsuits from every major label not by backing down, but by unveiling an HTML5 app that puts its service back on the iPhone, after Apple had booted it from iTunes. (Google followed suit, but allowed third-party apps like TinyShark into the Android market.
Only yesterday, Evolver.fm asked Grooveshark to explain its side of these major label lawsuits. Our contact never responded, but with the company’s release of a mobile version of Grooveshark that works with iPhone, Android, and any other connected device with a browser, we have our answer. The company has battened the hatches and is plowing full-speed ahead back onto Apple’s platform, Google’s platform, and just about anywhere else.
The web-based version of Grooveshark already used HTML5, but it streamed music in Flash, rendering it unplayable on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch without an app, which Apple deleted from iTunes. In switching from Flash to HTML5, Grooveshark circumvents Apple’s attempt to keep it off of iOS, and Google’s attempt to keep its main client off of Android.
Not so long ago, Grooveshark was touting its deal with EMI, the smallest major label, and the only one to make a deal with Grooveshark. However, EMI claims Grooveshark hasn’t kept up its end of the bargain, and that it owes around $150,000 in back-payment of royalties. Grooveshark passed that off as a minor contract dispute, which didn’t prevent EMI from suing for the money.
With that lawsuit, Grooveshark found itself in the ignoble position of being sued by every major label — even the one with which it had struck a deal. (The other lawsuits have to do with labels claiming that Grooveshark should filter their music out of its service more effectively, rather than relying on takedown notices pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.)
So, what does Grooveshark do in light of all this? It circumvents Apple and releases an iOS-compatible version. By assigning a homescreen bookmark to html5.grooveshark.com, iPhone and other users can essentially install the service as a native app.
To some, Grooveshark free, ad-supported music service with millions of songs for sharing and streaming, which has legal protection under the DMCA. To others, it’s one of the biggest scourges on the music industry.
The one thing both sides should agree on: in taking on all four major labels, Apple, and Google, Grooveshark sure has guts.