Court Orders Namecheap to Identify the Owner of Grooveshark

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Court Orders Namecheap to Identify the Owner of Grooveshark

Domain name registrar Namecheap has been ordered to divulge all personal and financial details of one of its customers who is accused of running the new Grooveshark website.

Domain name registrar Namecheap has been ordered to divulge all personal and financial details of one of its customers who is accused of running the new Grooveshark website. The order was requested by RIAA and is also covers discovery from CloudFlare, Dynadot, and Nodisto.

To appreciate what this is about, we need to both delve into the back story a little, as well as take a look at why this may be significant for Namecheap, a company who has made a name for itself for supporting Internet Privacy.

Grooveshark Backstory

namecheap grooveshark (imported #28107)Grooveshark was founded almost ten years ago, back in 2006 with the goal of helping fans share and discover music with their music streaming service. Unfortunately, the streaming service was beset with bad practices that led to a summary judgment against it back in September 2014. The ruling by United States District Judge Thomas P Griesa found the company's executives liable for infringing the rights of record labels on a grand scale.

While Grooveshark tried to get around the infringement by using a P2P sharing software such as Sharkbyte, a damning email from co-founder Josh Greenberg to employees did them no favors:

Please share as much music as possible from outside the office, and leave your computers on whenever you can. This initial content is what will help to get our network started — it’s very important that we all help out!

If you have available hard drive space on your computer, I strongly encourage you to fill it with any music you can find. Download as many MP3’s as possible, and add them to the folders you’re sharing on Grooveshark. Some of us are setting up special “seed points” to house tens or even hundreds of thousands of files, but we can’t do this alone …

There is no reason ANYONE in the company should not be able to do this, and I expect everyone to have this done by Monday …

IF I DON’T HAVE AN EMAIL FROM YOU IN MY INBOX BY MONDAY, YOU’RE ON MY OFFICIAL SHIT LIST.

What followed was various cat and mouse games with content, subject to DMCA, simply re-uploaded.

The courts found that Grooveshark was liable for the direct infringements of the employees it instructed to upload, as well as direct infringement for their own personal uploads of infringing content to Grooveshark.

Fast forward to the 1st May 2015, with $736 million in potential damages it may be liable to pay, Grooveshark shut down as well as issuing an apology:

Today we are shutting down Grooveshark.

We started out nearly ten years ago with the goal of helping fans share and discover music. But despite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service.

That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation,

As part of the settlement, Grooveshark agreed to delete all music files and hand over the ownership of the website, all patents and even their mobile apps. It has also been reported that around $50 million was paid in damages.

Grooveshark.io — The clone

Just a few days after Grooveshark shut down someone claiming to have connections to the old website sent many emails to news websites announcing that Grooveshark was being brought back online.

Well, I started backing up all the content on the website when I started suspecting that Grooveshark’s demise is close and my suspicion was confirmed a few days later when they closed,

By the time they closed I have already backed up 90 percent of the content on the website and I’m now working on getting the remaining 10 percent

While the new website looked somewhat similar to the old website, it was based on an MP3Juices clone. Many of the community features were missing but despite this, the website content bared an uncanny similarity to the old website, with Terms of use and search results being identical. You can see in more detail the similarities here.

groove-search

As you can imagine, the record labels were far from pleased and immediately filed a motion at the Southern District of New York accusing the website operators of counterfeiting, trademark infringement, cybersquatting and copyright infringement seeking a restraining order to shut the website down. District Court Judge Deborah Batts said:

There is good cause to believe that, unless the Defendants are restrained and enjoined by Order of this Court, immediate and irreparable harm will result from the Defendants’ ongoing violations

Under the restraining order, as well as barring the site's operators from using the Grooveshark trademarks and logo there was also a provision to stop hosting providers from hosting the website. Also, Namecheap was ordered to seize the domain until further notice:

newgroove court order

Namecheap quickly complied with the court order, and the domain is no longer accessible.

Fast forward to now, and RIAA still not happy is trying to get details of who was operating the new Grooveshark website as so far RIAA have no idea of their identity. In RIAA's motion to conduct expedited discovery in order get third parties to hand over the website operators personal information they said:

Defendants have continued to operate the counterfeit Service, concealing their identities and using multiple infringing domain names registered through at least three different domain name registrars

The argument put forward was that RIAA has "no alternative methods" to find out who is operating the new website, and New York District Judge Alison Nathan agreed:

grooveshark discovery order

While Namecheap is a champion of internet Privacy, and who recently launched a campaign to prevent the inability to use WHOIS privacy for commercial websites it is likely they will adhere to the terms of this order without objection as they have complied with similar demands in the past which were subject to a court order.

When Kirkendall was asked about what his view on the requirements of and what is a free & open internet when he did an IAMA on Reddit back in January he replied:

This is what we use at Namecheap internally to guide us: internet Freedom What it means: internet Freedom is everyone’s right to publish and consume content on the internet without any unwelcome effect from outside forces. internet freedom consists of four pillars:

  1. Freedom of speech ­ the right to express any opinion online without censorship or intimidation.
  2. Right to Online Privacy ­ the right or mandate of personal privacy concerning the storing, repurposing, provision to third parties, and displaying of information pertaining to oneself via the internet.
  3. Anti-­censorship ­ the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the internet.
  4. Net Neutrality ­ the principle that ISPs should facilitate access to all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, and without favoring particular companies or websites that pay for special treatment or faster delivery.

While we take a strong stance on internet Freedom, we also believe in our obligation to be socially responsible. We do not support activities that can cause harm or injury to others, or violate basic human or animal rights.

Hope that helps!

It is kind of interesting the wording they appear to stand by, with particular reference to point 2. We await to see if they blindly give up the information required by the Court order, or whether they choose to object, although we do not know under what basis they would be able to do so.

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