Is this the end of LimeWire as we know it? Yesterday, a US judge awarded the record industry the injunction they’ve been waiting ten years to get, ordering the owners of the Lime Group to shut down their P2P file-sharing network or, at least, to stop the distribution and support of their file-sharing software, and step up filtering activity so that the millions of users who already have LimeWire installed on their machines will find it harder to use it to share unlicensed content.
As previously reported, in May the US courts ruled once and for all that the LimeWire company and its founder Mark Gorton were liable for the copyright infringement their P2P technology enabled, despite them having delivered the usual defense about how they never actually hosted infringing content and that their technology had legitimate as well as illegitimate uses. As the major record and music publishing companies started to put together their damages claims against the Lime Group, the Recording Industry Association Of America also called on the courts to force the LimeWire P2P service offline, arguing that as the service had been basically declared illegal it shouldn’t be allowed to continue to operate.
When a judge did exactly that yesterday the Lime Group, which would once have probably died fighting to keep its P2P service online, basically agreed to abide by the court ruling, vowing to “use our best efforts to cease support and distribution of the file-sharing software, along with increased filtering”. Of course, because of the nature of P2P networks, LimeWire can’t just close the file-sharing community it created overnight, but for the last big conventional file-sharing service to be going offline is a symbolic win for the record industry.
LimeWire, of course, has been much less hostile to the record industry in recent years as it tries to persuade the majors to license their music to the subscription-based service it has been developing and which it still hopes to up-sell to its vast database of file-sharers. According to Billboard, which has seen a demo, that service is rather good and could be a useful new revenue stream for the record industry. Though whether the major record companies, who, according to some reports, will now push for multi-billion dollar damages from LimeWire, will ever play ball with the new legit LimeWire, remains to be seen.
Certainly the RIAA didn’t sound too consolatory yesterday when it told the press: “For the better part of the last decade, LimeWire and Gorton have violated the law. The court has now signed an injunction that will start to unwind the massive piracy machine that LimeWire and Gorton used to enrich themselves immensely”.