Universal Music files suit against Grouper, Bolt.com

On the day of the Google/YouTube acquisition, YouTube announced a licensing deal with Universal Music. Apparently, Grouper and Bolt.com didn’t get the memo. Universal Music has come out swinging in their first online video-related lawsuit against two of the lesser-known online video sharing websites, Bolt.com and Sony’s recent acquisition, Grouper.

The lawsuit takes aim at the websites’ ability for users to swap pirated versions of its’ musicians videos and seeks as much as $150,000 for each incident of copyright infringement.

Bolt.com operates much like YouTube, allowing users to only view Flash versions of the videos in their web browser without any ability to copy the video to their physical computer. Shutdown Bolt.com or remove any materials from the website, and they are no longer accessible by anyone. Alternatively, Grouper users can download the videos to their computer, iPod, or PSP. Thus, similar to how the old Napster operated with music, if a user downloaded a physical copy of a Grouper video to their computer, then the user will be able to view it indefinitely, even if Grouper were to shut down or remove the videos from Grouper.com.

Surprisingly, other websites weren’t mentioned in this lawsuit. Metacafe is larger than both Grouper and Bolt.com (according to Alexa data) and a search for Universal Music artist Mariah Carey resulted in several music videos of her, along with a pre-roll video advertisement for CareerBuilder. Another that wasn’t named in the lawsuit is Guba, which has blatant copyright infringement occurring on their website as a result of their indexing pirated videos from Usenet. Despite teaming with the MPAA and supposedly cracking down on piracy with software called “Johnny,” users can easily view tons of music videos on Guba’s website or download them to their computer, iPod, or PSP. A search on Guba for Universal Music artist Mary J. Blige, returned several of her music videos.

According to comScore, Bolt.com had 8.1 million unique visitors in August and Grouper had 1.8 million — whereas YouTube had 72.1 million.