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Dumping the Shark: Google Drops Mobile Music Service from the Android Market


by on April 8th, 2011

The trendier, with-it, hep cats amongst you may be acquainted with Grooveshark. For the uninitiated, Grooveshark is a streamed music service; it has a mobile application that, for nine dollars a month, allows you access to unlimited music for its extensive catalogue, as well as enabling you to upload content to the site. And Google – like Apple before it – has abruptly pulled the app from the Android Market.

Google’s justification for removing Grooveshark – couched in rather indirect terms - was that “we remove apps from Android Market that violate our policies”; in response, Grooveshark has said that  “We were surprised by Google’s removal of the Grooveshark App from the Android Marketplace, and are still unclear as to what policies have now been violated.”

Google’s actions have already fuelled a welter of theories in the blogosphere as to both the reasoning behind them, and indeed the timing of the move: some have inferred a correlation between the withdrawal and Google’s concurrent appearance before a US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on IP, competition and the Internet. The hearing covered the protection of e-commerce, specifically against sites which offer pirated content: Google is concerned about the implications of proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which would require ISPs to end contact with domains found to have offered pirated content. During the course of the hearing, Kent Walker, Google’s representative, stressed that the company was “well underway” in implementing an updated copyright plan, and that its own, internal efforts had led to tens of thousands of accounts being shut down in the second half of 2010. In essence, the company was arguing that the existing legislation – the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – backed up by rigorous industry self-policing, would be sufficient.

Thus – the theory runs – to back up its argument, Google demonstrated an exceedingly newsworthy, and timely, piece of self-policing, by jettisoning Grooveshark. It is certainly fair to say that Grooveshark has some form in this area: EMI brought a lawsuit against the company in 2009 which was settled when Grooveshark officially licensed EMI’s catalogue, while a second lawsuit filed by Universal is still pending; as the site allows users to upload and share their own tracks, it is perhaps unsurprisingly that the labels are concerned about copyright issues.

However, a number of bloggers – including Christopher Dawson at ZDnet – have hypothesised that there are deeper undercurrents at work: that Amazon, its partner in the Android Music Store and streamed service, would not be unhappy to see the back of an upstart competitor, and has pressured Google into dropping Grooveshark.

It is possible, of course, that all is coincidence; that there is no causal relationship between Grooveshark leaving the Market on the same day that Google entered the hearing; that Amazon has not had a quiet word in Google’s ear. But, one feels, such a possibility is bordering on the improbable.

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