Major music labels are suing filesharing application Aurous for “willful and egregious copyright infringement” just days after its earliest alpha version launched.
US industry body the RIAA has filed a lawsuit on behalf of labels including Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music subsidiaries Warner Bros, Atlantic and Capitol seeking an injunction against the software as well as damages.
The Spotify-style application enables its users to search for songs to stream and download, and while its developer has said it intends to become an aggregator for music from licensed streaming services, the RIAA’s lawsuit claims its sources are piracy sites.
“This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale,” claimed an RIAA spokesperson. “Like Grokster, Limewire or Grooveshark, it is neither licensed nor legal. We will not allow such a service to willfully trample the rights of music creators.”
All three of the sites named in its statement were shut down following legal action from music rightsholders, emphasising the RIAA’s belief that Aurous will meet a similar fate.
The software is the work of developer Andrew Sampson, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In an interview with music industry publication Billboard published earlier in the week, he defended the application.
“At the most fundamental level, it’s a music player like any other. What stands out is that it can take advantage of other existing platforms and piggyback off those,” said Sampson.
“You have YouTube, Spotify playlists, Apple Music playlists – the end goal, once we’re out of alpha, is to put those playlists into our app, and it’ll do the rest of the work. So you can listen from anywhere that you have a playlist...
I’d refer to it as a player of players. You can play content that you already own – we use licensed content APIs for that.”
The RIAA lawsuit begs to differ. It claims that the “Aurous Network” that is the default source within the application is pulling files from Russian piracy website Pleer.
Other options include MP3WithMe, VK and MP3Skull, which have all been accused of being havens for piracy by music labels. VK is also a social network – Russia’s equivalent to Facebook – but has faced regular legal battles with labels over the music uploaded and shared on its service by users.
Aurous and Sampson have responded to the RIAA lawsuit on Twitter, describing the action as “empty” and promising to fight it.
On his personal Twitter account, Sampson was just as defiant:
Aurous has already received the backing of digital civil-liberties body the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which tweeted a link to the lawsuit filing while claiming that “Once again, @RIAA asks a court to order the entire world to block & filter an app they don’t like”.
Aurous now faces the challenge of funding the upcoming legal battle, having already abandoned a crowdfunding campaign pre-launch after it “brokered some unwanted attention”.
Sampson has promised to launch a YouTube-style system for labels to ask for infringing songs to be removed from Aurous, as well as a system for users to “tip” artists that they like using the bitcoin cryptocurrency, in future updates.
However, the RIAA appears confident that it has a strong legal case to shut the service down.
“Defendants have failed to take any meaningful action to prevent the widespread and rapidly growing infringement by its users, and in fact have taken affirmative steps to encourage, promote, and assist infringement by their users.” claimed its lawsuit.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 14th October 2015 07.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010