Labels finally have their day with Limewire

June 2010


The international music industry has responded with delight at a court ruling that has found against Limewire, one of the oldest file-sharing networks on the Internet. In a 59-page decision issued Tuesday (May 12th) in New York, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood has ruled in a summary judgment that the peer-to-peer company is guilty of inducing copyright infringement, committed copyright infringement and practiced unfair competition. Reuters report that the judge leaned heavily on one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, Dr. Richard Waterman of the Wharton School, who testified that a random sample of 1800 files turned up copyright infringement in 93% of them, including 43.6 percent of copyrighted files owned by the plaintiff record labels. Based on the results, Dr. Waterman concluded 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.”

The judgment itself is perhaps unsurprising given the Supreme Court’s stance in MGM v Grokster  where the Court unanimously held that defendant P2P file sharing companies Grokster and Streamcast (maker of Morpheus) could be sued for inducing copyright infringement for acts taken in the course of marketing file sharing software

Here it is interesting that the judge was willing to take a long hard look at the evidence available and the fact that the site promoted filesharing –  Judge Wood dismissed LimeWire’s contention that the statistics weren’t reliable and accepted evidence that the service was not only aware of the copyright abuse but actively tried to attract infringing users. Wood also noted that the only step LimeWire took to curtail abuse was to make users agree not to infringe copyrights in its terms of service. The notice does “not constitute meaningful efforts to mitigate infringement,” she wrote. The Court found that from 2004 to 2006 Limewire’s annual revenue grew from nearly US$ 6 million to an estimated US$20 million. The judge found this growth depended greatly on Limewire users’ ability to commit infringement through Limewire.

Record label trade bodies were naturally delighted with Mitch Bainwol, CEO of Recording Industry Association of America saying “This definitive ruling is an extraordinary victory for the entire creative community” adding “Unlike other P2P (peer to peer) 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. The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce.” IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy said: “Limewire has been a major hurdle in the music industry’s efforts to make the transition to a new, legitimate online music business. This ruling will be hugely valuable both as an educational message and as a legal precedent internationally. It shows the stark reality of a site which made a fortune by violating the rights of artists and creators. The judgment also ends years of uncertainty among consumers, many of whom have felt free to use Limewire in the incorrect belief that it was a legitimate music site.  Now it has been made clear to them that Limewire is not legal, does not respect artists and creators, has profited handsomely from its illegality and is not OK to use.”
MGM v Grokster  545 U.S. 913
And see Tom Frederikse at

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