Federal Judge Shuts Down LimeWire File-sharing Service

Published by: Frank Galvano on 27th Oct 2010 | View all blogs by Frank Galvano
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Federal Judge Shuts Down LimeWire File-sharing Service

A US federal judge shut down the LimeWire file-sharing service on Tuesday, finding the service guilty of copyright infringement.  The music industry had tried for several years to put an end to the company's services, which they say violates their copyrights by allowing users to share music and video over the internet for free.

Kimba Wood, the judge presiding over the case, said that Lime Wire LLC, the parent company of the service, has intentionally caused a “massive scale of infringement” involving thousands of copyrighted works, and issued a permanent injunction requiring the company to completely disable its "searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality."  She went on to say that record companies had suffered irreparable harm from LimeWire's enabling of copyright infringement, calling the damge done staggering and well beyond the New York-based company's ability to pay.

The Recording Industry Association of America, an industry group for record companies, made the ruling available to the public, as the court failed to make a copy immediately available.  The RIAA claims its members have lost hundreds of millions in lost revenue due to the LimeWire service.  LimeWire expressed disappointment with the ruling, but says that they will work with the recording industry to move forward.  The injunction reportedly allows LimeWire to continue its testing of a new service that will allow user to purchase music from independent labels.  The company hopes to work out terms with the entire industry before the official launch.

LimeWire was founded in 2000 by Mark Gorton, and record companies have fought the company almost ever since because the service allowed millions to find and download music for free, depriving record labels of income.  US sales of music have plummeted from $14,5 billion in 1999 to just $7.7 billion in 2009, according to figures released by the RIAA.  The group cites online and physical piracy of its works as the chief causes for the decline.

The RIAA released a statement declaring that Tuesday's ruling against LimeWire "will start to unwind the massive piracy machine that Lime Wire and Gorton used to enrich themselves immensely."  The statement also said that damages would be determined by the court at a trial beginning in January.

LimeWire reportedly has in excess of 50 million users, and a survey conducted by NPD Group showed that they accounted for 58 percent of people who used a peer-to-peer service to download music for free in 2009.  As the availability high-speed internet access has spread, LimeWire has also drawn the attention of Hollywood, as more and more users have started using the service to download movies and television shows.

Judge Wood's ruling to halt the LimeWire service falls in line with a 2005 US Supreme Court ruling against another file-sharing service, Grokster Ltd.  That ruling stated that companies could be held liable for copyright infringement for distributing services designed to be used for potential copyright infringement, even if they could also be used for legal purposes.

The case that begins in January is Arista Records LLC et al v Lime Group et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 06-05936.

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