Last month, MBW said that Aurous might be ‘the most frightening app in existence for the music business’ and likened it to ‘the new Grooveshark’.
That description was more accurate than we might have imagined.
The RIAA – on behalf of UMG, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Bros. Records, Atlantic and Capitol Records – has today filed a lawsuit against Aurous and its founder Andrew Sampson for what it calls “willful and egregious copyright infringement”.
The plan is to shut down the site using injunctive relief, and seek actual or statutory damages.
It won’t be a simple mission.
“THE DEFENDANTS’ BUSINESS MODEL IS NEW, BUT ITS BUSINESS PLAN IS OLD: ILLEGALLY PROFITING FROM PIRACY.”
With a strikingly similar user interface to Spotify, Aurous is an audio ad-free music streaming app/website which launched in public Alpha this week.
It has drawn comparisons with Popcorn Time, the copyright-infringing streaming movie and TV service which is now one of the 5,000 most popular websites in the world.
Like Popcorn Time, Sampson has explained, Aurous effectively operates as a a decentralised BitTorrent search engine; one that allows users to directly stream any file lurking on BitTorrent networks worldwide.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
If so, Sampson could hypothetically argue that Aurous isn’t hosting any illegal content, and is therefore exempt from legal punishment as a ‘mere conduit’ to piracy.
The RIAA, however, says that’s not the case.
Its lawsuit alleges that Aurous – which has suspiciously fallen offline in the past few hours – does “not include… the ability to search for files on the BitTorrent network” and is instead “designed to retrieve recorded music exclusively from overseas pirate sites”.
“LIKE GROOVESHARK, AUROUS IS NEITHER LICENSED NOR LEGAL. WE WILL NOT ALLOW SUCH A SERVICE TO TRAMPLE THE RIGHTS OF MUSIC CREATORS.”
This, says the RIAA, “makes it effortless for internet users to infringe plaintiffs’ copyrights”.
The RIAA argues that the “defendants’ business is new, but its business plan is old: illegally profiting from piracy by free riding on the creative efforts and investments of others.”
Its lawsuit continues: “The Aurous Network appears to consist of a single known pirate site based in Russia called Pleer (formerly known as Prostopleer).
“Pleer has been the subject of repeated copyright complaints by rights holders to the Russian government. Its home page brazenly offers free unauthorized downloads of major recording artists’ top tracks for the week, year, and all time.”
In a public statement today, the RIAA commented: “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale.
“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.”
The RIAA suit argues that Aurous “blatantly infringes the Plaintiffs’ copyrights by enabling internet users to search for, stream, and download pirated copies of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings for immediate listening and later playback.”
“AUROUS BLATANTLY INFRINGES THE [MAJOR LABELS’] COPYRIGHTS BY ENABLING INTERNET USERS TO SEARCH FOR, STREAM AND DOWNLOAD PIRATED SOUND RECORDINGS.”
It alleges that “defendants are openly encouraging and assisting infringement of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings”.
No doubt, the catchy tagline of Aurous will be brought up in court: “Enjoy music how you want to for free.”
The RIAA’s suit continues: “In early 2015, at the website www.getstrike.net, Defendant Sampson publicly released a search engine called ‘Strike Search’, specifically designed to promote copyright infringement on the BitTorrent network … Sampson declared: “Want to see what the pirates of the world fancy? Check out the temporary live search feed getstrike.net/torrents/live/.”
“Sampson also published Terms of Service that brazenly flaunted his service’s facilitation of copyright infringement. The terms stated: ‘You promise not to sue us or tell our mothers we’ve been naughty.’”
“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.”