Music biz wins big in LimeWire copyright case

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The music industry has landed a major punch in its fight against LimeWire, one of the oldest file-sharing networks on the Internet.

In a 59-page decision issued Tuesday in New York, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood has ruled on summary judgment that the peer-to-peer company is guilty of inducing copyright infringement, committed copyright infringement and practiced unfair competition.

The judge leaned heavily on one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, Dr. Richard Waterman of the Wharton School, who testified that a random sample of 1800 files turned up copyright infringement in 93% of them, including 43.6 percent of copyrighted files owned by the plaintiff record labels. Based on the results, Dr. Waterman concluded that “98.8 percent of the files requested for download through LimeWire are copyright protected or highly likely copyright protected, and thus not authorized for free distribution.”

The ruling is a huge victory for the content industry in its ongoing battle over web piracy. The judge dismissed LimeWire’s contention that these stats weren’t reliable and accepted evidence that the service was not only aware of the copyright abuse but actively tried to attract infringing users.

Wood also noted that the only step LimeWire took to curtail abuse was to make users agree not to infringe copyrights in its terms of service. The notice does “not constitute meaningful efforts to mitigate infringement,” she wrote.

The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the major U.S. labels, predictably reacted happily to the news.

“This definitive ruling is an extraordinary victory for the entire creative community,” Mitch Bainwol, the RIAA’s chairman & CEO, said in a statement. “Unlike other P2P (peer to peer) services that negotiated licenses, imposed filters or otherwise chose to discontinue their illegal conduct following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case, LimeWire instead thumbed its nose at the law and creators. The court’s decision is an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce.”