Over the last ten years, a lot has changed in the music industry. As sales of CDs have routinely declined, music lovers have flocked to the convenience of digital formats and instant, on-demand access to a huge library of music. Unfortunately, a large number of fans have turned to digital piracy to obtain what parts of the music industry have failed to provide. In response, hundreds of digital music startups have emerged in an attempt to fix this market failure, but no one has cracked the code yet—and traditional models continue to lose profits.
Grooveshark is proud to be among companies creating new means of profit for artists and labels, with new, innovative business models. Nonetheless, getting to this point hasn’t been easy. We are in the business of helping transform the music industry, and industry transformation is always messy. In our case, as with many other web-based startups, we depend on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to allow us the breathing room necessary to build a business.
For those that don’t know, the DMCA is a federal law that allows small internet services the ability to operate without the crushing financial burden and risk of potential copyright infringement claims. The DMCA is far from perfect, but it has been a major keystone upon which many innovative internet companies—like YouTube with video uploads, Grooveshark with music uploads, or Flickr with photo uploads—have been built.
The U.S Copyright Office has begun a study to determine the desirability of amending the DMCA and is asking for comments from the public. Currently, all songs fixed before Feb 15, 1972 do not explicitly fall under the DMCA’s protections, but instead are governed under 50 individual state’s copyright law. Congress has asked the U.S. Copyright Office to investigate whether that very odd 1972 date should be done away with—greatly simplifying the copyright law for internet companies since we would only have to worry about one federal law as opposed to 50 different state laws.
If this study leads to an amendment to the DMCA, the result will be a much more clear, distinct set of laws to govern music copyright in the United States—making things vastly simpler for both music rights holders and innovative new companies that help fans, while simultaneously combating music piracy. This may sound distant or insignificant, but this hits very close to home for Grooveshark. As many of you know, we are involved in a major lawsuit with Universal Music over this exact issue.
This is the time we need your help. If you respect the innovative spirit that has helped companies like Grooveshark bring music to the modern world, take a few minutes to send the United States copyright office your feedback.
We’ve made a sample draft that embodies our sentiment—all we need is for you to use your voice on this issue. Download the document below, add your thoughts, and submit it here.
We’ve worked hard to stay legal so that we can continue bringing you the music you love, and a few minutes of your time could go a long way.