The legality of streaming music online has sparked several significant Internet law questions. Spotify, Grooveshark and turntable.fm are the hot online music services available in the United States. And unlike their ancestors (think Napster), this generation of Internet song services are trying to do things on the right side of the law – but some have proved more successful than others.
Legality of Streaming Music Online: Why are some music-sharing sites legal and others aren’t?
The legality of streaming music on the Internet is largely dependent on which laws a service chooses to follow. Since there isn’t a universal Internet law governing all methods of online music distribution, proving an online streaming violation is often tedious and can take years to resolve. Some services chose to abide by rules outlined in The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, while others prefer to operate using the “SoundExchange” method.
Legal Difference Between Interactive And Active Online Music Sharing Services
According to U.S. law, online music streaming services and Web radio stations fall into two categories, “interactive” and “non-interactive.” While the wording on the books is precise, the gist is this:
If a person can create their own playlists and access songs whenever, then the service is considered “interactive.” If individual users have limited control over which songs are played on a given stream, then the service is considered “non-interactive.”
Since Spotify.com and Grooveshark.com allow users to create personalized playlists, they’re interactive; turntable.fm’s “listening rooms,” however, are deemed non-interactive since each user in a room does not have control over which songs are played.
Legality of Sharing Music Online: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Since its inception, Grooveshark.com has been sued for copyright infringement several times. In fact, the company is currently embroiled in an intellectual property lawsuit. While the details of each online streaming lawsuit varied slightly, Grooveshark has always maintained their adherence to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Grooveshark has had success with this argument in the past, but their luck may run out if the Tennessee musicians win the suit.
Grooveshark’s Achilles’ heel is theire inability to monitor mebers files and successfully sniff out copyright violators. And while they do send out cease-and-desist notices to those found violating copyright laws, the process is cumbersome and things often fall through the cracks, thus leaving Grooveshark vulnerable to lawsuits.
Legality of Sharing Music Online: SoundExchange Statutory Licensing For Non-interactive Music Sharing Websites
Turntable.fm’s model is perhaps the safest of the current popular music streaming websites. Since users can really only choose the genre of music and not specific songs that are played on demand, the service is considered non-interactive. As such, turntable.fm does not have to work out royalty agreements directly with labels and can simply use the “SoundExchange” method.
SoundExchange is a nonprofit entity to which non-interactive music services can pay royalties. SoundExchange then distributes said royalties to the appropriate labels and artists.
Interested in learning more about the legality of streaming music online? Kelly / Warner Law will walk you through the legalities of setting up your service and make sure you remain on the right side of the law. Our focus is everything Internet- and technology-related. Internet music services are the wave of the future and there are now ways to do it legally.