Those who listen to pre-1972 music may have to find a source other than the Internet, as the result of a recent ruling by the New York state appeals court has sided with Universal Music Group on removing all pre-1972 music from streaming providers. The on-going digital copyright lawsuit, originally filed by Universal, claims that Grooveshark had violated copyright laws in hosting Universal’s music recorded prior to 1972 as no law provides explicit language that protects music pre-1972.
Why 1972? Music that was recorded thereafter granted streaming providers a “safe habor” like Grooveshark, thanks to the 1996 Digital Millenium Copyright Act law. The act protected such providers from copyright infringement liability (but within reason, i.e. the streaming provider must remove infringing content when requested).
This means that if Universal ultimately wins the battle, music recorded prior to 1972 may very well be removed from streaming providers, including YouTube, Soundcloud, and others, completely. However, a glimmer of hope may still exist thanks to a New York State Supreme Court Judge who previously ruled in favor of Grooveshark in July 2012. During this case, he cited a past legal battle between Capital Records Inc. v. MP3Tunes, which ruled that all songs (including pre-1972 ones) were protected under DMCA’s safe harbor provision. Despite this, the battle does look to be a difficult one, as the most recent ruling siding in favor of Universal points to a future with less streamable music being readily available.
The lawyer representing Grooveshark has confirmed that they are planning to appeal, despite the fact that CEO Sam Tarantino is “literally broke.” But if Universal wins, there’s very little chance that music pre-1972 will be stayin’ alive (see what I did there?) unless they want to risk hefty penalty fees in legal damages.