LIMEWIRE SUED BY RIAA

It was reported in The New York Times that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued LimeWire on August 5, 2006 in New York City for copyright infringement. Recall RIAA subpoena Verizon Internet in 2002 for the identities of the Verizon customers that had downloaded approximately 600 copyrighted songs within a 24 hour period.

It is reported that RIAA contends LimeWire has grown into the leading file-sharing software for stealing music.

Wikipedia reports that LimeWire is a peer-to-peer file sharing client for the Gnutella network and is free software released under the GNU General Public License. Wikipedia cites a June 28, 2005 report of The New York Times stating that Lime Wire LLC “may” stop distributing LimeWire due to the June 2005 outcome of MGM v. Grokster. A new version of the program was released on June 21, 2006 which included a new option to filter out material that copyright owners had denied access to. However the Wikipedia article suggests that many of the “legal” downloads are “spoofed” licenses by falsely marking a file is not copyrighted.

For what it is worth, LimeWire’s home page contains a link to a “Copyright Information” page. The page explicitly warns that it is illegal to use LimeWire to share copyrighted files without permission. Downloading the software includes an agreement that the user will refrain from using LimeWire for the purpose of copyright infringement.

Further, the page states “Everything you share with LimeWire becomes public and trackable.”

Apparently, the software includes a filter (which can be turned off) that prevents a copyrighted file from being downloaded.

The following are additional quotes from the LimeWire Copyright Information page:

“Lime Wire respects the privacy of its users. Lime Wire does not log IP addresses and/or any other identifying information. However, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may be required by (sic) disclose such information.”

“Your activities on peer-to-peer networks such as LimeWire’s may be monitored by copyright owners. By committing copyright infringement your risks include significant settlement fees if you are sued. Copyright owners have sued thousands of people for online copyright infringement. Don’t be the next one!”

“More information on music and movie copyrights is available at the RIAA and MPAA websites.”

Based upon the above quotes from the LimeWire Copyright Information page, it appears at least part of their defense will be that the users of the software were warned against copyright infringement, the software contained tools to verify if the file was copyrighted, and information was given to other resources to verify the copyright status, therefore LimeWire can’t be responsible for the wrongful contact of others, especially after receiving an explicit warning. It has been suggested this defensive warning is the product of the Supreme Court’s ruling in MGM v Grokster. It will be interesting to see if this strategy works.

As an update, Limewire countersued RIAA in September of 2006. Further, Wikipedia indicated (per BBC) that the terms “limewire” or “lime wire” were search terms likely to return links to malware.