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Sony, Warner to sue music service Grooveshark

It's the latest attack by large music companies on Grooveshark, which lets users listen to songs for free. The New York Times reports the lawsuit could be filed by today.

Grooveshark.com, a free music streaming service, could soon feel even more legal heat from the music industry.

Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are readying a lawsuit which could be filed today, according to The New York Times.

The action follows a Universal Music lawsuit filed last month against Grooveshark, claiming its employees posted more than 100,000 pirated songs. Grooveshark called the suit a "gross mischaracterization of information."

Sony and Warner are expected to make similar complaints in their suit.

Grooveshark has yet to see the Sony and Warner lawsuit, but vowed to defend itself.

"We cannot comment on litigation we have not seen, but will aggressively defend ourselves in court," the company said in an e-mailed statement. "Grooveshark is a company founded on our love of music and our passion to give musicians a platform to reach audiences worldwide. We respect the intellectual property of all artists, and our strict policies are designed to ensure that they only upload content to which they are entitled."

Grooveshark has long said that it is not liable for copyright violations committed by users because of the protections provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor. The company offers an on-demand music search and streaming service that makes money through an advertising platform.

For a service provider to qualify for safe-harbor protection a company must quickly remove infringing material once notified by a copyright owner via a take-down notice. Some in the music business have been skeptical about the speed with which songs previously flagged for removal reappear on Grooveshark.

But internal e-mails included in court records in the Universal Music suit appeared to show Grooveshark had intended to build a huge online following without paying for the music it streamed and shared, which would allow the company to establish a stronger negotiating position with the record labels.

"The only thing that I want to add is this: we are achieving all this growth without paying a dime to any of the labels," wrote Sina Simantob, Grooveshark's chairman, in an e-mail on December 1, 2009.

Grooveshark previously fought off a lawsuit from EMI, settling with the record company and forging a licensing agreement. The New York Times reports that deal may be in jeopardy since EMI was sold in a deal that would split the business between Universal and Sony.

It's been a year of setbacks for Grooveshark, which also saw Google remove its app from Android Marketplace. The company told CNET in an e-mail that it was surprised by the snub.