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Surprise! Record Labels Sue LimeWire

You knew it had to happen: once Australia’s Kazaa file sharing service was forced to pay damages and declare its intentions to go legit, the world’s largest records labels are turning their attention to still-running file sharing services. And on Friday August 4, Sony BMG, EMI Group, Universal Music, and Warner Music Group filed suit against peer-to-peer sharing service LimeWire in Manhattan federal court, alleging the company profits from "massive" copyright infringement on its network as users illegally download music. The suit seeks $150,000 for each song "willfully infringed" by LimeWire, and personally named LimeWire CEO Mark Gorton and COO Greg Bildson as defendants.

The labels’ complaint sites the now-famous MGM vs. Grokster decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging LimeWire is not only aware of piracy taking place on its network, and not only makes no material attempt to deter piracy, but actually encourages it to make the LimeWire software more popular.

LimeWire finds itself the latest target of the music industry’s lawsuit-based strategy of combatting peer-to-peer networking sites. Well-armed after the Grokster decision, the industry has been playing hardball with peer-to-peer services, urging them to settle and attempt to go legitimate. With the possible exception of a pre-Grokster-decision Napster, none of the peer-to-peer services which have settled or caved to record label threats—AudioGalaxy, eDonkey, BearShare, WinMX, and Kazaa—have survived as "legitimate" music services.