Big record labels win LimeWire copyright case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The makers of file-sharing software LimeWire have been found liable for infringing the music copyrights of 13 major record companies, a Manhattan federal judge has ruled.

In a ruling made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood agreed with the record companies that LimeWire and its founder Mark Gorton were liable for infringement and engaging in unfair competition.

New York-based Lime Wire created its service in 2000 and describes it as the world’s most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing service, with more than 50 million monthly users.

These users account for 58 percent of people who said they downloaded music from a peer-to-peer service in 2009, CNET News said, citing a survey by NPD Group.

“The evidence demonstrates that Lime Wire optimized LimeWire’s features to ensure that users can download digital recordings, the majority of which are protected by copyright, and that Lime Wire assisted users in committing infringement,” Wood wrote in her ruling.

She added that Gorton knew about the copyright infringement.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2006 by Arista, Atlantic, BMG Music, Capital, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Motown, Priority, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin and Warner Brothers.

Lime Wire chief executive George Searle said the company “strongly opposes” Wood’s ruling and is committed to working with the recording industry to develop products that help music listeners.

Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of The Recording Industry of Association of America, called the court’s decision “an important milestone in the creative community’s fight to reclaim the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce.”

“The court has sent a clear signal to those who think they can devise and profit from a piracy scheme that will escape accountability,” he said.

Wood set a June 1 date for further proceedings in the case.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel. Editing by Robert MacMillan