Music-streaming software Aurous only launched its 0.1 Alpha client at the weekend, but it’s already being sued by the RIAA for “willful and egregious copyright infringement”, in a lawsuit that raises serious questions about the startup’s intentions.
Some of the RIAA’s rhetoric is familiar – “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale” explains its summary sent to journalists including Music Ally – but its allegations zero in on where Aurous is getting its music from.
“By default, Defendants’ service directs users’ searches to what Defendants call ‘the Aurous Network’. The Aurous Network appears to consist of a single known pirate site based in Russia called Pleer,” claims the RIAA’s lawsuit, which notes that this site has been regularly complained about by Russian rightsholders.
The lawsuit also notes that Aurous gives the option to search for music from MP3WithMe, VK and MP3Skull – all familiar foes for the music industry. The RIAA is seeking an injunction plus damages. “Like Grokster, Limewire or Grooveshark, it is neither licensed nor legal,” claimed the body.
Aurous has responded with defiance. “Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere, empty lawsuits aren’t going to stop the innovation of the next best media player,” claimed its Twitter account. “For anyone curious the @RIAA principle complaint is that we’re ‘profiting’, anyone see any ads? We sure don’t.”
It went on to challenge music industry CEOs to arm-wrestle – “We win you drop your empty suit” – while developer Andrew Sampson tweeted from his own account: “Getting sued for 3 million when I haven’t made anything; thats how you know your idea was a good one.”
Needless to say, Aurous and Sampson won’t be settling this lawsuit through arm-wrestling: and with no profits, the costs of defending the case could be ruinous in themselves.
There are certainly questions to answer about the sources that Aurous is pulling from: Pleer and MP3Skull are a far cry from the legal aggregation of music via APIs from the likes of Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music that Sampson told Billboard about earlier this week: “We’re pulling content from sources that are licensed.”
Such contradictions won’t help Aurous – hailed as ‘the Popcorn Time of music’ before its release in a comparison to the slick (but unlicensed) video-streaming service – seem like a good actor, even with its promises of a Content ID-style takedown system and tipping scheme for artist payments.
One last thing, though. Aurous’ threat to the music industry is less grave than has been claimed. TorrentFreak, for example, compared its alpha client negatively to Spotify on the grounds of catalogue and speed: “Yes, the Popcorn Time for music has arrived. Only it arrived more than half a decade ago, and it’s called Spotify,” claimed its early review.
The music industry spends a lot of time thinking about how to make legal digital services ‘better than piracy’: well, if the hot new piracy thing is ‘worse than Spotify’ that’s encouraging.
Not that this could or should stop the RIAA from suing if it believes its case is strong; but it’s certainly a reason for rightsholders and musicians not to believe the more apocalyptic headlines out there about Aurous’ potential impact.