August 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Grooveshark vs. Google: The Plot Thickens

grooveshark downloader google chrome

Grooveshark Downloader disappeared after Evolver.fm's article posted yesterday, but now it's back.

Following Evolver.fm’s article “Someone Is Lying To Us: Grooveshark or Google,” which posted yesterday, the browser extension in question – Grooveshark Downloader – has vanished from the Google Chrome Web Store.

Either Google or the app’s Brazilian developer, desescute, deleted it (the note says “An error occurred: Item not found. This item may have been removed by its author”).

Update: Now the plot is even thicker.

However, Grooveshark Downloader is already live again, courtesy of a supposedly new developer with a fake website that has not been registered, according to Internic (groovesharkdownloader.net).

The new version is identical to the old one, except that “Download” is now spelled “D0wnload” (with a zero). Like its predecessor, the new version lets any user of Google’s Chrome browser download any song from Grooveshark as an unprotected, high-bitrate MP3 (read about the risks). In addition, the browser extension blocks Grooveshark’s own ads, and replaces them with new ones that users can pay to remove.

Grooveshark has been battling record labels and music publishers for years, due to the fact that it streams their music without the proper licenses. Grooveshark’s CEO told us the company has been trying to work with copyright holders for six years, and that besides, it’s legal because users upload the songs. Labels and publishers, of course, disagree. To be fair, YouTube was in a similar situation for four years before it managed to negotiate licenses — and now it’s contributing significantly to the labels’ and publishers’ bottom lines. (Grooveshark recently settled lawsuits with EMI and publisher Yesh Music.)

The Grooveshark Downloader Chrome extension effectively turns Grooveshark into a downloading machine easy enough for anyone to use, surely riling copyright holders even more. Plus, it violates Grooveshark’s terms of service. As such, Grooveshark has apparently been trying to get it deleted from Google’s Chrome Web Store, to no avail… until Evolver.fm contacted Google yesterday.

Google told us that Grooveshark never filed any such requests, which is why we pointed out that either Grooveshark or Google was lying. So far, our poll indicates that most readers think Grooveshark is the liar, but the company responded to Evolver.fm with screenshots purporting to show that it requested the app to be removed (see below).

The screenshots appear to have been taken last night and this morning, so it’s still not totally clear whether Grooveshark really tried to get Google to delete the extension before our article went up, as they say they did, and as Google says they didn’t.

So far, here’s the takeaway from this confusing situation:

  • Grooveshark streams just about any song in the world for free, usually without a license, and says its behavior is protected by the DMCA, just like YouTube is.
  • Google, like Apple, blocks Grooveshark itself from its app stores, but allows many Grooveshark add-ons into the Chrome Web Store — at least one of which lets people download unlimited, unlicensed MP3s for free, in seconds.
  • Somewhere, a developer is laughing, because he or she is doing the same thing to Grooveshark that the labels say Grooveshark is doing to them.

Here are the screenshots Grooveshark sent over on Tuesday showing how it requested Google to remove Grooveshark Downloader, which vanished only to return in a different spot. Is there anything about copyright on the internet that’s not like whac-a-mole?

(Note the filenames. However, Grooveshark spokeswoman Danika Azzarelli confirmed that the company asked Google to remove the extension: “Because they do not give responses or receipts, we had to take screenshots of the forms we filled out yesterday. We did not know that we would need to do that when we filled out multiple forms last week. I can confirm that we sent at least two requests last week in addition to the ones we sent yesterday.”)

See also: our exclusive interview with the guitar-playing CEO of Grooveshark, Sam Tarantino.