After Grooveshark shut down a few months ago, some individuals set up a site that looked kind of like Grooveshark, but with a totally different backend, and used a variety of URLs that included Grooveshark on different top level domain systems. The RIAA, as it’s been known to do, freaked out, and filed a lawsuit. As part of this, it sought a restraining order and injunction, which it got. The RIAA then insisted that the restraining order applied to CDN provider Cloudflare, despite not actually being a part of the case. Cloudflare, as a non-party worried about the impact of such a restraining order, stepped into the case to protest, but the judge still ruled against Cloudflare despite the fact that the ridiculously broad injunction went really far, basically saying that no site with the word “Grooveshark” in the domain could use Cloudflare, even if that was a domain like “GroovesharkSucks-GoBuyMusic.com.”
Cloudflare complied, but asked the court to modify the ridiculously overbroad injunction, as it could easily be read to say that Cloudflare itself then had to proactively police every use of its service to make sure no one tried to similarly post a Grooveshark-related site. Instead, it asked the judge to, at the very least, require the RIAA to alert Cloudflare to sites that it believed were violating the injunction. The RIAA, of course, argued that Cloudflare had the full responsibility of proactively making sure no new Groovesharks showed up. The judge has now clarified the original injunction, saying that, yes, the RIAA needs to alert Cloudflare to any future problematic sites, but denying Cloudflare’s request for a five day turnaround time.
The initial injunction still seems tremendously problematic in just how broad it is. Here’s what it covers, saying that basically anyone is barred from:
- Using the Grooveshark Marks in any manner in connection with the advertising, offering for sale, or sale of any service or product, not provided by or authorized by Plaintiff UMG.
- Committing any acts calculated to cause consumers to believe that the Counterfeit Service or any other use of the Grooveshark Marks is offered under the control and supervision of Plaintiff UMG or sponsored or approved by, or connected with, or guaranteed by, or produced under the control and supervision of Plaintiff
- Infringing any of the Grooveshark Marks and damaging Plaintiff goodwill;
- Otherwise competing unfairly with Plaintiff UMG in any manner; or
- Using, linking to, transferring, selling, exercising control over, or otherwise owning the domain names grooveshark.io or groovesharkpw or any other domain name that incorporates, in whole or in part, any of Grooveshark Marks (the “Infringing Domain Names”).
- Directly or secondarily infringing Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings via the Counterfeit Service or any variations thereof.
While I don’t care what happens to Grooveshark itself or these copyrights, it seems quite disturbing that a judge can issue such a broad injunction that can impact so many third parties, potentially making them liable should someone do something that “unfairly competes with Universal Music in any manner.” Part of the point of SOPA was to add these kinds of injunctions to the law but Congress did not approve SOPA. So why is the court acting like it has this power?
Again, it’s easy to say “meh, no big deal, whoever set up these sites were clearly infringing” or even to attack them for setting up a fake Grooveshark. But this goes beyond that, and raises serious questions about the court’s powers to order third parties to block all access to websites without full due process.