LimeWire Probably Doomed After Court Decision
Illegal file sharing fans are in a funk the last little while following the Grokster decision and rulings against major player The Pirate Bay, and now they have more to be concerned about. In a decision handed down in US Federal Court this week, Judge Wood ruled Lime Group, parent of LimeWire software maker Lime Wire, and founder Mark Gorton committed copyright infringement, induced copyright infringement, and engaged in unfair competition.
This decision is a real key for music and movie industry types who have been fighting mostly a losing battle against torrents, file traders, and sharing sites. The Grokster decision from the US Supreme Court pretty much set the scene for this ruling, making it clear that sites or companies that encourage or induce people to violate copyright are themselves responsible. The LimeWire case goes one step further in a sense, making the founder mark Gorton personally responsible, and not protected by his LLC that actually distributes the software.
This is an interesting case also because it confirmed that the Grokster decision can stand next to the original Betamax Decision, which declared VCRs and similar devices legal because they had signfiicant non-infringing uses. While P2P can be uses for non-infringing activities, such as sharing unix distributions and WoW patches, the reality is that pretty much every torrent or P2P gudie site is packed full of obviously infringing materials.
These rulings may also have an effect long term on the outcome of the Viacom v YouTube case. Clearly, YouTube has claimed their stake on the internet with very lax rules regarding use submitted content, but they have also moved (after other cases) to put in filtering and are fairly prompt to handle DMCA notifications from copyright holders. But many also feel that YouTube grew from nothing to the largest video sharing platform by using copyright violating materials, and items submitted to the court shows that YouTube founders were apparently aware of this and may even have encouraged it to grow the site. The use of clips of popular TV shows like Family Guy and other prime time staples were common in YouTube early years.
With a Surpreme Court ruling and now the LimeWire decision in a Federal Court, it appears that the pendulum is swinging back towards rights holders on these issues. Will it stay that way?