In what may turn out to be a major victory for the music industry, U.S District judge Kimba Wood has ruled that the creators of the peer-to-peer file sharing software LimeWire are liable for copyright infringement conducted by users of their application when they downloaded pirated music. In a 59-page ruling, Wood sided with more than a dozen record companies suing LimeWire, granting a summary judgement and finding LimeWire’s creators knew full well their software was being used to download copyrighted material. Wood ruled the company took no “meaningful steps” to prevent the infringement; moreover, LimeWire’s makers were “predisposed to committing infringement” and assisted their users in doing so. And in addition to LimeWire LLC being liable, principal LimeWire owner and CEO Mark Gorton was found personally liable.
“The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce,” wrote RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol, in a statement. “By finding LimeWire’s CEO personally liable, in addition to his company, the court has sent a clear signal to those who think they can devise and profit from a piracy scheme that will escape accountability.”
LimeWire has been tied up in court for years in battle with record companies and other rights-holders, but has continued to operate as a commercial peer-to-peer file sharing service. The issue before the court was not so much whether piracy took place on LimeWire (it does), but the extent to which LimeWire induced its users to engage in copyright infringement. In her ruling, Judge Woods cited numerous internal documents that LimeWire’s creators understood infringement was being conducted through the service and, through various actions, guided users to download unlicensed copyrighted material. What’s more, LimeWire put up no technological barriers to infringement, and made no attempt to remove copyrighted material from its service, filter content shared by its users, or even educate its user base.
Judge Wood has not paid out penalties in the case; the next major action is a status conference set for June 1 which will set the schedule for a penalty phase and handling some still-unresolved issues in the primary case.
In a brief statement, LimeWire wrote it “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.” The company has not announced whether it intends to appeal the ruling.
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