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Is it Legal to use Grooveshark?

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Like many others, I am guilty of enjoying the pleasures of music radio and downloadable songs via the internet, which apparently means I am not a good citizen. Even though my philosophy is “no harm, no foul,” law enforcers take this infringement very seriously. In the eyes of the law, no one can legally listen to music without having explicitly purchased it or without expressed written consent.

So, our legal rights include the right to free speech but not the right to free hearing?

In any case, one of the sites I have discovered for quick and easy tunes is Grooveshark, where you can simply search the title, artist or album name and choose from a list which songs you want to play in order, kind of like an online iTunes™ application.

Well it seemed the G-sharks swam in to some hot waters, because one day recently when I tried to listen to a hip hop song I heard on the radio but am too proud to actually purchase, the site seemed to have a seizure. My initial reaction was to panic at the thought of the virus that surely just attacked my hard drive. I quickly closed that window and restarted my computer, just to be safe.

Well, no virus, but Grooveshark was under scrutiny to determine the legality of its practices. Folks in the recording industry insist that the site is illegal. In fact, Google and Apple have both pulled Grooveshark’s mobile app from their stores. The Sharks insist that they are perfectly legal, and have structured the site in such a way that they follow government laws but are simply not licensed by every label. They are not “dedicated to copyright infringement,” as they say.

Not everyone is buying what they’re selling, (pun intended), but it looks like Grooveshark won’t be shut down anytime too soon.

A ruling by Judge Barbara Kapnick held that the “Grooveshark” site may not be liable for common law copyright infringement of pre-1972 sound recordings, which are not protected by the Copyright Act. Apparently, the site complies with the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

So legally, users can keep on groovin’ and we are NOT horrible citizens! At least, that’s the ruling for now.
This makes sense, because if there are no law questions against sites such as YouTube, which follows practically the same legal line of thinking as Grooveshark, then why should one be under scrutiny and not the other?


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