EFF: Google must explain why they nuked the Grooveshark app

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Julie Samuels, a good dressing-down for Google over its mysterious, lily-livered removal of the Grooveshark music app from the Android store. I agree entirely -- and this epitomises the reason I chose to use Android devices, not because I trust Google to do no wrong, but because the OS lets me install software that Google doesn't approve of. In other words, I'm more interested in how well it fails than how well it works.
It's hard to not speculate about what happened. We can only assume that a complaint from the RIAA would be based in copyright. That Google would perform a copyright takedown without requiring a valid notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is surprising to say the least -- especially given that Google just last week filed its reply brief in the Viacom v. YouTube appeal vigorously defending its policy of responding only to valid DMCA notices where copyright complaints are concerned. (Separately, we question whether there's a theory of copyright law under which Google would be liable in the first place, given that Google merely stores the code for another service provider's app -- code that we seriously doubt is itself infringing or otherwise illegal and which isn't even executable on the Android Market platform.)

And if the RIAA's complaint was not one under the DMCA, we - and others - are left to wonder: Did Google take down the Grooveshark app because it will compete with Google's rumored soon-to-be-released cloud music service? Did Google's takedown intentionally coincide with its appearance before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on IP in an effort to make itself more sympathetic to Congress? Is Google simply letting itself be controlled by the whims of the RIAA and the larger content industry as a whole?

Google's Lack of Transparency and Openness in the Android Market Will Hurt More Than Just Grooveshark


  1. I agree: Google storing code is the same as a bank storing money; a bank has no obligation to define the representation of every dollar it stores, were it came from, how it was used or how it may be used once it’s withdrawn. Additionally, the interest a bank earns on these deposits does not inherit the monies history, good or bad. Finally, Google is responsible on how they “lend” their code; as a bank would too concerning money.

    1. Banks are actually required to report suspicious transactions and seize money based on law enforcement requests. If a transaction appears suspicious and they don’t report it they can get in serious trouble.

  2. With all due respect to the EFF they weren’t present during the last last COICA/piracy congressional hearing: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-20051248-261.html

    Reps were seriously asking why Google doesn’t fix all the ills in the world and stop all crime and the hearing before that turned into a Google witch trial in absentia.

    So they are essentially under huge pressure from politicians in the pocket of big content.

    Oh, and you can still side-load the app(s).

  3. It just occurred to me: why is the EFF defending the rights of people the way they do? shouldn’t there be like…some sort
    of governmental body for that? Somewhere?

  4. This is why I chose the MAEMO powered Nokia N900, default unlocked, free as in beer/speech Linux goodness, every built in phone accessory known to man including a great point and shoot camera, in a far better developed for piece of hardware than the train wreck that was OpenMoko. I have more high quality useful apps than any phone OS I know and still get a native Angry Birds port too.
    Why does every manufacturer even Nokia have to eventually revert to the MSFT or iOS model?
    Cant we just have phones that we really own?

  5. “Cant we just have phones that we really own?”

    Well, not anymore – because then we only have to pay for them once, and that’s not a valid business model in today’s electronics economy….

  6. Grooveshark is available for iOS as well, through Cydia.

    Both Android and iOS have the same “failure mode”: root/jailbreak, then sideload. The differences between the platforms in terms of actual user freedom are vanishingly small.

    1. You are mistaken: Android phones do not require any hacking of any sort in order to sideload applications.

      Android phone with AT&T branding do not allow this, however, but they are the exception.

      The very same grooveshark app for Android is freely available to download at their website m.grooveshark.com.

    2. Jailbreak != Root either.

      To my understanding there are some sizeable tradeoffs when jailbreaking – so much so that its mostly not worth it (battery performance decline among others).

  7. I hadn’t really looked into Grooveshark before, but I just tried it and it seems that their business model is a) show ads next to copyright-infringing music b) charge money for mobile access to copyright-infringing music c) profit.

    It looks like a neat service, but without the support of the labels (which as far as I can tell they don’t have), how can they possibly get far? If it was hosted in Russia or someplace I could understand – it’d be like the modern equivalent of a pirate radio station – but it’s hosted in Florida.

    I hope that their efforts do some good and help force change in the music industry, but as it stands they’re enabling copyright infringement on a massive scale. I personally don’t think copyright infringement means much, but I can understand why Google is cautious about allowing it in the market.

    And has been noted, the freedom of Android is not that you’re free to put whatever you want on the market. You’re free to install things from other sources. Google has every right to restrict what’s in their market, and in fact they *should* do that, at least in certain cases like this where allowing it would only cause pain for Google.

    I use AT&T (family plan), but I have an unlocked Android phone (Nexus One) and I rooted it, installed a custom ROM, etc. So I can install things from outside the market. I won’t be installing Grooveshark, though, because for mobile access they want $9 a month and it doesn’t really seem like it’s legal! At least if it were free (even ad-supported) it wouldn’t seem like extremely un-subtle subversion of the law (as incorrect as the law may be). If that $9 was spread evenly among the artists who you listen to each month, that’d be something else which I could totally get behind, but that’s not what’s happening here.

  8. Google is snuggling up to the RIAA so they can launch their music locker service with limited fuss, this was (directly or indirectly) part of that process.

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