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Streaming Aggregator Aurous Facing RIAA Lawsuit For 'Egregious' Alleged Copyright Infringement

15 October 2015 | 5:05 pm | Staff Writer

The music-industry body has filed the suit on behalf of several major labels

The legality of fledgling streaming-service aggregator Aurous will likely be dragged into focus under the harsh lights of a courtroom in the near future after reports emerged that US music-industry body the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA) has filed a $US3 million lawsuit against it on behalf of several major labels over concerns regarding copyright infringement.

As The Guardian reports, the RIAA's suit comes on behalf of a group of labels including Universal Music, Sony Music and subsidiaries of Warner Music such as Warner Bros Records, Atlantic and Capitol over what they say is Aurous' "willful and egregious" breach of their copyright, comparing it in the process to now-defunct illegitimate services such as Grokster, Limewire and Grooveshark.

"This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale," an RIAA spokesperson said of the lawsuit against Aurous. "Like Grokster, Limewire and Grooveshark, it is neither licensed nor legal. We will not allow such a service to willfully trample the rights of music creators."

The primary complaint against Aurous from the RIAA and the labels it is representing in the suit comes from a dispute between the software's developer, Andrew Sampson, and the industry over the legitimacy of the method through which the service sources its music, scraping from existing services; designed as a sort of aggregator for music-streaming services, Sampson says Aurous' database of streamable and downloadable songs has been built — sourced from services such as Apple Music, YouTube and Spotify — through legitimate means, while the plaintiffs claim the whole set-up is illegal.

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"At the most fundamental level, it's a music player like any other," Sampson explained to Billboard in a recent interview. "What stands out is that it can take advantage of other existing platforms and piggyback off those, and integrated those into the platform."

"We rely on third-party APIs [application programming interfaces] for a lot of our content," he continued. "But we don't want to hit those every time we need a search result. So we go to other sites that offer up ways to search for music, and put that on one place in our network, which uses BitTorrent, without having to go back to the Internet for those search results."

"I'd refer to it as a player of players. You can play content that you already own — we use licensed content APIs for that. We use BitTorrent only as a means to save bandwidth for the users, so we're not overloading other sites."

It's a sentiment that the developer echoed on Twitter:

It's here where the method gets a little murky, as Sampson conceded that although the service aspires to be completely legal, there is potential for inadvertent exploitation, such as when or if a user uploaded pre-release or otherwise bootlegged material.

"If someone was to upload to one of those sites that we get content from, then it would show up in our search results," he said. "It's like how Google works; we have crawlers that go across the internet to find files and index them. We have a very nice search engine."

As a result, Sampson maintains, any illegal content that appears in the service's search database can safely be assumed to have not been put there by Aurous itself.

"We're pulling content from sources that are licensed," he said. "From a legal standpoint, what we're doing is OK. All files are streamed from legitimate sources — we don't host anything. We only share cached results over peer-to-peer."

However, as The Guardian notes, the RIAA claims that the service is not just utilising illegitimate sources to build its database, but that its "default source" is a Russian-based piracy website called Pleer, with additional alleged culprits named including accused piracy hubs MP3WithMe, VK and MP3Skull.

Either way, the company doesn't seem to be too fazed by the legal threat, with additional tweets from the Aurous account itself expressing its intention to beat the lawsuit and realise its potential as a means to — yet again — shake up the music industry.

"Major labels need to adopt to new standards," Sampson said in his Billboard interview.

"They are free to use our content identification system, when it's released. We're integrating something called bit-tipping, so as you listen to songs you can tip artists with Bitcoin.

"We're adding the means for artists to get paid. We're not trying to undermine content creators. It's not like we're stealing the music."