Judge pulls plug on pirate site LimeWire
File-sharing websites were dealt a huge blow when a judge in New York City pulled the plug on LimeWire, the music-sharing website with up to 50 million users, issuing a permanent injunction forcing it offline, probably for good.
United States District Judge Kimba Wood handed down the order saying the company, launched in 2000 in competition with other pioneering peer-to-peer sharing sites like the original (now defunct) Napster, had intentionally engaged in a "massive scale of infringement" of copyright laws.
Visitors to LimeWire are now greeted with a notice confirming the party is over.
"This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court-ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software," it says. "Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorisation is illegal."
It is a signal victory for the Recording Industry Association of America, which first filed suit against LimeWire on behalf of several leading record companies. In a statement, the Association praised Judge Wood's decision to hamstring LimeWire and its founder Mark Gorton. The injunction, it said, "will start to unwind the massive piracy machine LimeWire and Gorton used to enrich themselves immensely".
Not that the case is over yet. In January both sides will find themselves before Ms Wood again, to begin the process of assessing what level of damages LimeWire may owe to the record labels for the years of copyright abuse. LimeWire may then begin to regret its regular boast that the 50 million users had shared and downloaded no fewer than three billion songs a month.
"Naturally, we're disappointed with this turn of events," LimeWire chief executive George Searle said in a statement. He added, however, that "our company remains open for business". But with the file-sharing technology disabled it wasn't clear what other purpose the company would serve.
LimeWire is following a path taken already by Napster, which similarly fell foul of the recording industry as did other peer-to-peer sites like Grokster and Morpheus. The advent of Napster in particular drastically altered the business model for record companies as they adjusted to the new reality that demand for physical product like CDs would plummet while the opportunities to access music online for nothing would proliferate.
Wood said in her 17-page ruling that Gorton had "committed copyright infringement, engaged in unfair competition, and induced copyright infringement".