Peer-to-peer music sharing’s glory days are long gone. Napster used to be a favorite for people interested in swapping music with one another for free. It did not take too long for the music industry to see the writing on the wall, and Napster had to completely change the services it offered. Other peer-to-peer start-ups had a similar fate. However, LimeWire seemed to be able to survive for quite a while, even though the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) placed a bullseye right on LimeWire’s face. But those days are over.
On October 26, 2010, the United States District Court Southern District of New York entered a permanent injunction against LimeWire. In order for a court to order a permanent injunction, it must find that,
- The plaintiff has suffered an irreparable injury,
- Remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury,
- Considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted, and
- the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.
This was not a tough burden for the Plaintiffs (recording studios) to over come after the court found that the peer-to-peer network,
- Intentionally encouraged direct infringement,
- Knew about the substantial infringement being committed,
- Marketed itself to Napster users who were known copyright infringers,
- Actively assisted infringing users in their infringement efforts and tested the LimeWire client software by searching for copyrighted material,
- Failed to implement any meaningful technological barriers or design choices aimed at diminishing infringement, and
- Had a business model that depended on mass infringement
LimeWire would have never been able to pay the huge damages to the Plaintiffs. I was most interested to see how the Court would discuss the public interest being served by the injunction. The Court kept the explanation very short. “The public interest is served by upholding copyright protections and, given the harm caused by LimeWire, a permanent injunction is necessary to preserve the integrity of those protections.”
The LimeWire software was used overwhelmingly for infringement and allowed for infringement on a massive scale. 98.8% of all downloaded requests were for unauthorized files.
The injunction applies only to the LimeWire product. Lime Company, the entity behind the product, is still open for business, and plans to create a new music service in the future.