Beleaguered file-sharing software maker LimeWire LLC said it still hopes to settle a dispute with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) even as a federal court in New York appears set to shutter the company for enabling copyright infringement.
A spokeswoman for LimeWire late Tuesday said the company is “actively engaged” in working with the industry to settle the claims and to “move forward with a new way of working together that benefits all parties involved.”
“LimeWire absolutely does not encourage or condone the illegal copying or sharing of copyrighted material,” the spokeswoman said. LimeWire has taken steps to discourage infringement, by including a hash filter in its software that prevents copyrighted material from being illegally shared, the company said.
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However, at this stage, it’s doubtful whether the company’s attempts to settle the dispute with the RIAA, which has long accused LimeWire of enabling massive music piracy, will have any effect.
Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last month found LimeWire and its chief executive Mark Gorton liable for inducing and enabling copyright infringement. Wood’s ruling was in response to a motion filed by 11 recording companies accusing LimeWire of knowingly allowing and actively encouraging users of its software to indulge in massive music piracy.
In a 59-page ruling last month, Wood agreed with the recording companies and found that LimeWire had engaged in “purposeful conduct that fostered infringement, with the intent to foster such infringement.” The judge upheld virtually all of the arguments presented by the recording companies in their motion and ruled that LimeWire had failed to implement in a “meaningful way” any technical barriers that would have made it harder for users of its software to illegally share and download music files.
Even LimeWire’s hash filter was an optional function that could be turned off by default and had to be enabled by users for it to work, the judge had noted. In addition to finding LimeWire liable for inducement of copyright infringement, Wood also ruled that Gorton, the company’s chairman and CEO, knew about the infringing use and did little to stop it.
The RIAA ratcheted up the pressure against LimeWire after the judge’s ruling. In a motion filed Monday, the RIAA asked the court to freeze all assets belonging to LimeWire LLC, Lime Group and Gorton. The motion claimed the company was “liable for hundreds of millions of dollars (if not even a billion dollars) in statutory damages.”
LimeWire yesterday said that at this stage in the legal process, “any predictions on damages are purely speculative.”
The RIAA motion follows a separate motion filed last week that urged the court to shut down LimeWire. The motion noted that LimeWire’s peer-to-peer file sharing software continues to be the “tool of choice for rampant infringement.” The RIAA motion, which seeks a permanent injunction against LimeWire, claimed that over the past two years, LimeWire’s software had been used to illegally download hundreds of millions of songs. It was undetermined when Wood make a ruling on the motions.
If the court grant’s the RIAA’s injunction, it will not be the first time that a maker of peer-to-peer file-sharing software has been held liable for copyright infringement. In 2005, P2P software vendor Grokster Ltd., was forced out of business after a Supreme Court ruling that held the company liable for copyright infringements committed by users of its software.
Grokster, like LimeWire, argued that its software could be used for non-infringing purposes as well. The company had tried to argue that it should not be held liable for the actions of its users. The courts, however, rejected such arguments on the basis that almost all of the use of Grokster’s software had been for illegal music downloading. It is the same argument that the RIAA has made in the LimeWire case and which the court has supported.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld.