LimeWire, one of the first and last commercial peer-to-peer filesharing networks online, is now sitting in some very hot lemonade. After a 4-year legal battle with the Recording Industry Association of America, New York-based Lime Wire, LLC was found liable yesterday of inducing copyright infringement and failing to take “meaningful steps to mitigate infringement.”
The ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood, marks a major victory for the recording industry in their fight against online piracy. The RIAA originally sought $150,000 per copyright violation in their suit, but the damages have yet to be determined. Judge Wood scheduled a hearing for June 1 to move forward with the decision.
Arguments for and against copyright infringement aside, the RIAA were able to demonstrate that the activity on LimeWire, which uses the Gnutella P2P network, was driven by the illegal downloads of copyrighted material. As Ars Technica reports:
[Dr. Richard Waterman, a statistics professor at Penn’s Wharton School] looked at a random sample of 1,800 LimeWire files and concluded that 93 percent were copyrighted and unlikely to be licensed for download through LimeWire. “Dr. Waterman next logged the number of times LimeWire users sought to download each of the files in the sample,” wrote Judge Wood in her ruling. “Based on these results, Dr. Waterman estimated that 98.8 percent of the files requested for download through LimeWire are copyright protected or highly likely copyright protected, and thus not authorized for free distribution.”
Moreover, the court demonstrated that LimeWire employees and CEO and founder Mark Gorton were knowledgeable about the illicit activity and failed to stop it. While LimeWire’s interface includes an agreement users must click on that states they won’t share copyrighted material, as well as their own store, these measures did little to prevent the sharing amongs LimeWire’s 50 million users. Gorton himself was found personally liable in the judgement of the same claims.
This represents the first case against a filesharing network since the Grokster decision in 2005, a case that opened the floodgates to new suits against such companies. A celebratory RIAA called this an “important milestone” in their ongoing battle against copyright infringement. “Unlike other P2P services that negotiated licenses, imposed filters or otherwise chose to discontinue their illegal conduct following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case, LimeWire instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators,” said RIAA chairman Mitch Bainwol.
However, LimeWire may be down, but they’re not out. George Searle, LimeWire’s chief executive, issued this statement:
LimeWire strongly opposes the Court’s recent decision. LimeWire remains committed to developing innovative products and services for the end-user and to working with the entire music industry, including the major labels, to achieve this mission. We look forward to our June 1 meeting with Judge Wood.
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