Streaming service Grooveshark’s parent company, Escape Media Group, may have to pay more than $736 million in damages to major labels, after a US judge ruled ahead of trial that its copyright violations were “willful” and made “in bad faith”.
US District Judge Thomas Griesa will preside over the trial, which starts today, in federal court in Manhattan. On Thursday, Griesa said that he will tell jurors they can choose to award the statutory maximum of $150,000 in damages per song.
In September last year, Griesa ruled that ruled that Grooveshark was liable for copyright infringement, as its own employees – including chief exec Samuel Tarantino and Joshua Greenberg, chief technology officer – had uploaded a total of 5,977 tracks without label permission. Artists whose tracks were uploaded include Madonna, Eminem, Bob Marley and Jay Z.
Reuters reports that Griesa said the defendants had ordered employees to upload recordings in spite of legal risk. The trial will now determine how much Escape must pay in penalties for the infringement.
Nine record companies, including Arista Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Bros Records, sued Escape for infringement in 2011.
Court papers suggest that Escape will try to limit its losses by arguing that there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the infringement. Griesa has said that he will allow the company to present evidence of attempts to secure licenses.
In court papers, the plaintiffs have called Grooveshark a “linear descendant” of Grokster, LimeWire and Napster. A spokesman for the service said the company had no comment.