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Eagle vs. shark

Grooveshark gets hooked by a $17 billion lawsuit — and brings the national debate over copyright infringement to Central Florida

Photo: Cover design by Jeff Drew, License: N/A

Cover design by Jeff Drew

Photo: Paul Geller, License: N/A

Paul Geller

Photo: Paul Geller, License: N/A

Paul Geller

“The question is,” Geller says, “is YouTube supposed to know when violations on their site exist, or is YouTube just supposed to not exist?”

Geller says he was pleased withthe swift response to the potential havoc these bills would have played with the Internet as we know it, particularly since some of the web’s heavy hitters weighed in. “Google was a surprise,” he says. “They never use their homepage to make [political] statements. … I was really happy to see them throw their weight around on this.”

But even though the battle against SOPA and PIPA seems to have been won in the court of public opinion, the war between sites like Grooveshark and the industries that own the licenses to the intellectual property is far from over. It’s still being waged in a more subdued way in courtrooms, state legislatures and in the U.S. Department of Justice, which is beginning to crack down on Internet entrepreneurs who aren’t abiding by the law.

In 2010, the DOJ announced the creation of the Intellectual Property Task Force, which was established to combat domestic and international activities that violate copyright laws and to help shape U.S. policy regarding copyright violations.

On Sept. 9, 2011, the agency announced one of its first big takedowns: It indicted five individuals who ran a website called NinjaVideo, which allowed users to upload movies and TV shows to its servers, on charges of copyright infringement and conspiracy. On Jan. 20, a federal judge sentenced the 24-year-old co-founder of the site, Matthew David Howard Smith of Raleigh, N.C., to 14 months in prison, with two years supervision following his release and restitution fines of $172,387 for his role in founding the site.

Likewise on Jan. 19, as SOPA’s supporters were backing away from the controversial measure, the DOJ announced an even bigger trophy. It took down Megaupload, a massive cyberlocker that allowed users to store and share files, including videos, TV shows and music, on servers it maintained in the United States and abroad. The feds announced that they were charging seven individuals and two corporations in what it called the “Mega Conspiracy,” which it says is one of the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States. Each of the seven individuals charged in the case, one of whom is still being held in a New Zealand jail while awaiting extradition to the United States, faces up to 20 years in prison for their involvement in Megaupload.

“The conspirators … deliberately misrepresented to copyright holders that they had removed infringing content,” the DOJ announced when it shut Megaupload down. “For example, when notified by a rights holder that a file contained infringing content, the indictment alleges that the conspirators would disable only a single link to the file, deliberately and deceptively leaving the infringing content in place to make it seamlessly available to millions of users to access through any one of the many duplicate links available for that file.”

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